Getting a root canal has become synonymous with undergoing a serious and painful dental procedure. Even though many people might not even know what root canal therapy is or why it might be needed, they probably have the preconceived notion that the procedure is either painful or frightening — or both.
However, as Dr. Hyrum Hatch, Drs. Mason and Jennifer Konkle from Hatch Family Dentistry in Tempe explain, in many ways this stereotype is simply untrue. Not only are root canals virtually pain-free procedures now, they are clinically proven to be completely safe and effective restorative treatments. Understanding the details about root canal treatment can help debunk some of the myths surrounding this common but misunderstood procedure.
A root canal treatment is the procedure prescribed for patients who have experienced extreme amounts of tooth decay. Most of the time, tooth decay is caught before it can create any problems worse than a couple of cavities. In these more minor cases, it’s the enamel — the outer, protective covering — of a tooth that’s harmed, and the fillings required to patch these cavities are both simple and relatively inexpensive.
However, tooth decay that has been left untreated can manifest in much more serious and destructive forms. If the bacteria that causes tooth decay manages to burrow under the enamel of a tooth into the softer interior materials (the dentin and pulp) of the tooth, far more serious procedures like root canal therapy will be needed. Because the pulp chamber of the tooth houses the soft tissues and nerves of that tooth, serious tooth decay can be an extremely painful experience.
It’s hard for a layperson to tell if they need a root canal, but there are several common symptoms that patients may recognize. These include:
If you experience any or a number of these symptoms, contact our office immediately to schedule a thorough dental checkup to make sure that you get the necessary treatment as soon as possible. With dentistry, as with any medical field, treating an infection sooner rather than later can be crucial in deciding the success or failure of the procedure, and you shouldn’t risk letting the problem snowball out of control.
So, what does the dentist do to treat a bacterial infection in the pulp of the tooth? First of all, he or she will carefully examine the area to determine the extent of the infection. If the bacteria has reached the roots of a tooth, more sophisticated steps may need to be taken to contain the inflammation. Most of the time, though, the infection will be localized enough that a root canal will be able to solve the problem.
Next, your dentist will give you local anesthesia before drilling an “access hole” into the tooth. This provides the dentist the space to reach into the pulp of the tooth to remove the infectious bacteria and carefully clean out the pulp chamber. Any damaged nerves and tissue will be removed along with the bacteria. The nerves in a tooth are typically only used to help the tooth grow in, so their removal shouldn’t affect a tooth’s functionality at all. During this step, medications may be applied to the tooth to kill off any lingering bacteria in the area.
Once the pulp chamber has been completely cleaned out, your dentist will seal off the pulp chamber to prevent it from being affected by inflammation in the future. A special sealing paste will be injected into the pulp chamber, and an ordinary cavity filling will be used to close off the access hole. As soon as the tooth is sealed tight, the root canal treatment is over.
Many patients report very little to no pain following root canal treatment. For those who experience some, your dentist can give you a prescription for painkillers or you can attempt to manage the discomfort with over-the-counter pain relievers. If pain worsens and is accompanied by swelling that doesn’t decrease within a few days, you should come in and see us again.
If you’ve experienced any of the symptoms for extreme tooth decay, or if you just want to learn more about root canal therapy, contact Hatch Family Dentistry. Dr. Hatch, and Drs. Mason and Jennifer Konkle diagnose if you need root canal treatment in the greater Phoenix area, and they’d be happy to discuss treatment options with you. Just call (480) 838-3073 or visit our website to set up an appointment today!