Your teeth are a very important part of your body. Whether you know it or not, your teeth affect other areas of your health. Procedures like root canals are necessary to keep your teeth and gums in good health, and can mean the difference between teeth that last a lifetime and teeth that have to be replaced.
WHAT IS A ROOT CANAL?
A root canal is the surgical removal of pulp or root matter from within the tooth that has become infected. In most cases, the procedure starts with the removal of the pulp via drill much like you would have a cavity removed. The difference is that a root canal is much deeper. After the infected root is removed from within the tooth, it is filled with an inert material that will not get infected again. The tooth is then capped or crowned with an artificial bite surface to keep the material in place. Root canals are used to save as much of the tooth as possible rather than pulling it.
WHY MIGHT SOMEONE NEED A ROOT CANAL?
In most cases, root canals are a method of removing severe infection. If your dentist sees that you have an oral infection that is mild, they will simply prescribe an antibiotic then clean the tooth to help save it. If the root inside the tooth becomes severely infected, a root canal is the only way to save the tooth and prevent further wide spread infection of the mouth. Infections can spread from one tooth to another or can even end up causing you to lose the tooth that is infected.
THE ROOT CANAL PROCESS
Your procedure will start with adequate imaging and diagnosis so that the dentist can be certain that a root canal is the necessary method. Your dentist will take x-ray images of the tooth to see how widespread the infection is and to get an idea of how much work is needed to remove it. This process is going to be the first step. If your dentist decides that a root canal is necessary, you may have the procedure done that day or schedule another procedure at a later date. The dentist will begin by administering local anesthesia or full sedation if needed. They will then drill a small hole in the tooth in order to access the infection. After the inner part of the tooth is visible the dentist will remove all infection from within the tooth and wash away any remaining pulp. They may also inject a antimicrobial solution to kill off any remaining bacteria. Your dentist or endodontist will then fill the interior of the tooth with a rubber like material and place a temporary filling. After the tooth has had time to heal, you will go for your crown. The crown will fit your bite pattern and will go over top of the tooth. If there is enough tooth left, the dentist will simply affix the crown to the remaining tooth, if not, they will add a support post.
WHAT TO EXPECT AFTER A ROOT CANAL
The first thing you can expect is swelling. Since this is a relatively major procedure, your mouth and face will be swollen on the side of the filling for a few hours. The swelling generally goes down after 24 hours depending on how sensitive you are to dental work. To help reduce the swelling, keep a bag of ice or cold pack on the swollen area. You can also expect some pain and tenderness. Your dentist may prescribe a pain killer to help deal with the pain or they may suggest you take an NSAID pain reliever, such as Aleve, to help reduce inflammation. You can also expect to not be able to eat on that side of the mouth for a few weeks until the area has healed fully. Root canals are standard procedures now and in most cases can be done in the span of a few days, with minimal recovery.