Illustration of the dental root canal process

Illustration of the dental root canal process

Root canals are hailed as one of the scariest and most painful dental procedures. Many people associate root canals with extreme pain, and who can blame them? The whole process involves removing the nerve tissues and pulp of your tooth. The process does sound painful. However, it isn’t the procedure that’s painful. In fact, the opposite is true. It’s what went wrong with your tooth that is the most painful.

What Causes the Need for Root Canals?

Root canal infections start as lowly cavities. The bacteria causing the cavity, if left uncheck long enough, will continue to eat away the surface of your tooth. Eventually, this bacteria can reach your root canal—the area in the center of your tooth that houses the pulp where the nerve tissues resides. This nerve tissue isn’t necessary for the form and function of your teeth—it only provides sensory sensations of hot and cold—but it is very susceptible to infection.

If the bacteria from your cavity reach your root canal, it will start to break down the nerve tissue and multiply, which can create an abscessed tooth. An abscess is a pus-filled pocket in your root canal. This type of infection can also lead to swelling your face and neck, bone loss, and draining of pus into your gums. As you can imagine this whole process can become quite painful.

Do You Need a Root Canal?

As you might guess, it’s very important that root canal infections get treated right away to prevent more serious complications from happening. So, how can you tell if you need a root canal? There are several symptoms to look for, such as:

  • Extreme pain or toothache, especially during chewing or applying pressure
  • Increased sensitivity or pain to hot or cold temperatures, even after you have removed the source of the heat or cold
  • Darkening of the tooth
  • Swollen and tender gums
  • A recurring or consistent pimple on your gums

If you see any of these signs, it’s best to get an appointment set up with your dentist immediately. As stated above, you don’t want your infection to get to the point that it creates an abscess or infection in your gums.

How Long is the Process?

If you’ve determined that you might need to get a root canal, you might also be wondering how long the whole procedure will take and what is involved with the process. Root canals often take more than one dental visit to complete.

During your initial appointment, your dentist will determine whether or not you have a root canal infection. If you do your dentist will consult with you in order to bring you up to speed about what’s going to take place next.

Your next visit will typically include X-rays and nerve extraction. Once your dentist has removed the tooth’s nerves, he or she will thoroughly clean the root canal and fill it with a temporary filling. This creates an inhospitable environment for any bacteria. After this is done, you will need to wait for the infection to disappear completely.

Once the infection is gone, you’ll go back to your dentist to get a permanent filling. After the permanent filling is in place, the dentist seals the root canal and you’ll be good to go.

As you can see, there’s a lot that goes into getting a root canal infection taken care of, but the process will benefit you greatly. In fact, due to modern medicine and anesthetics, you typically won’t feel a thing during the procedure, and you can feel better knowing that the pain you felt from the infection won’t come back.