According to popular culture, a root canal treatment is one of life’s most painful experiences. But popular culture is wrong — this common treatment doesn’t cause pain, it relieves it. Knowing the facts will help alleviate any anxiety you may feel if you’re scheduled to undergo the procedure.
A root canal treatment addresses a serious problem involving the pulp of a tooth that has become infected. The pulp is a system of blood vessels, nerves and connective tissues inside the tooth that helps the tooth maintain its vitality. It also contains a series of minute passageways known as root canals that interconnect with the body’s nervous system.
The pulp may become infected for a number of reasons: tooth decay, gum disease, repetitive dental procedures, or traumatic tooth damage. Once the pulp becomes irreversibly damaged it must be completely removed from the tooth and the root canals filled and sealed in order to save the tooth.
We begin the procedure by numbing the affected tooth and surrounding tissues with local anesthesia and placing a dental dam (a thin sheet of rubber or vinyl) over the area to isolate the tooth and prevent the spread of infection to other oral tissues. We then drill a small hole in the top of the tooth to access the pulp chamber. Using special instruments, we then remove the infected or dead pulp tissue through the access hole and then wash and cleanse the root canals and pulp chamber with antiseptic and antibacterial solutions.
After additional preparation, we fill the root canals and pulp chamber with a filling especially designed for this kind of treatment, usually a rubber-like substance called gutta-percha that easily molds and compresses when heated. We then seal the access hole with a temporary filling (until a permanent crown can be fashioned) to prevent infection from reentering the pulp space. After the procedure, you may experience some minor discomfort easily managed with over-the-counter pain relievers.
You’ll find the root canal treatment alleviates the symptoms prompted by the pulp infection, particularly acute pain. What’s more, a successful root canal will have achieved something even more crucial to your health — it will give your tooth a second chance at survival.
If you would like more information on root canal treatment, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “A step-By-Step Guide to Root Canal Treatment.”