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If you have a severely damaged, decaying, or infected tooth, you may be nervous about having it treated when you are told you need a root canal. This endodontic treatment has an undeserved reputation that unfairly conjures up images of pain. Like many dental practices, root canal therapy has come a long, long way from its historic roots. In fact, thanks to technological advances and the invention of anesthesia in the 20th century, root canals today actually involve minimal discomfort. The thing is, if you don’t treat the tooth, it can die and require extracting. Today, more and more people are saving their natural teeth with root canal therapy to the tune of millions of teeth, so you are in good company.

Root canal basics

A root canal goes to the root of the tooth, where our dentist takes out the infected areas of the tooth pulp that house the tooth nerves and then thoroughly cleans and disinfects the canals inside the tooth’s root to prepare for the filling, a rubber-like medicated sealing material, called gutta-percha. The tooth may be capped with a dental filling or crown so that we can restore your natural tooth to its healthy state and function. This procedure can take as little as one visit or two at the most.

To prevent having the tooth extracted and save it instead, Dr. Larsen may recommend a root canal for the following reasons:

-You’ll restore your normal chewing abilities, as missing teeth can cause problems with chewing as well as speaking clearly.

-It will restore your balanced bite.

-You will maintain the natural look of your smile.

-Missing teeth can cause the bone beneath a tooth to deteriorate and affect your facial appearance.

-Saving the tooth keeps the neighboring teeth from getting excessive wear which can diminish precious enamel.

Why do people need a root canal?

Damage can arise if the tooth has an infection or inflammation because of oral trauma. This can happen from repeated dental work done on a tooth, deep decay, a faulty crown or having a chip or crack in a tooth. Whether a tooth has an infection at the tip or irreversible inflammation, if the pulp has sustained damage and isn’t treated, you’ll likely end up in pain. This can especially be the case if the tooth has an abscess – a pocket of pus that forms around the root of an infected tooth. Your best bet is to treat these conditions before it hurts!

But here’s the thing. A toothache often indicates a need for a root canal to fix the issue. This is why seeing our dentist regularly for routine cleanings and exams can help spot issues before you end up with a bad toothache. Once you do have pain, unfortunately, you’ll definitely know it. Signs of a toothache requiring a root canal might look like this:

-Feeling spontaneous pain in a tooth

-Having a sensitivity to cold that doesn’t go away, unless you are in the early stage of pulpal deterioration where heat gives you relief

-In the later stages of pulpal degeneration, you might experience sensitivity to heat that feels better when exposed to cold

-When the pulp starts to die, you might have an abscess which hurts when you touch the tooth, bite down or have swollen tissue

Let’s look at the structure of a tooth so you can get a better idea of what is being done. Your tooth is protected with an outer coating of white enamel and is the hardest material inside your body! Beneath that protective layer is your dentin. It’s not as hard as enamel but it is harder than the soft tissue below it – the tooth pulp. In addition to the nerves, the pulp houses blood vessels and connective tissue, it really is the heart of the tooth as it keeps it alive. Still, an adult tooth can survive without the pulp as it can get nourishment from the tissues that surround the tooth.

What happens when you have a root canal

-Dr. Larsen will examine the area to assess the condition and this usually includes having X-rays done to see where the tooth is showing problems.

-You’ll be given a local anesthesia to numb the area, and if you’ve ever had a filling, you’ll quickly discover that a root canal is on par with that!

-Once the area is numb, our dentist will make an opening and take out the diseased parts of the pulp, also called a pulpectomy.

-After the roots have been opened and the diseased pulp removed from the root chamber, your tooth will be ready to receive the gutta-percha material and sealed in using dental cement. In some cases, you may need a filling or crown to fully restore the tooth.

-To treat any lingering soreness from the treatment, you may be given an over-the-counter or prescribed medication or anti-inflammatory. If you had an infection you may also be given an antibiotic.

-You’ll need a follow-up appointment so our dentist can check on your healing and talk about placing a crown if needed.

The good news is, your restored tooth can last a lifetime if you continue to take good care of your teeth, brushing and flossing daily and seeing Dr. Larsen for routine professional cleanings. Eat a balanced diet to keep your teeth and gums healthy, and watch out for hard foods, as they can break your teeth and harm a root canal. So please don’t snack on ice!

We hope this information helps you feel more confident and at ease when it comes to having a root canal treatment. At Gentle Dental Arts in Orem, Utah, we have helped many patients successfully restore their dental issues with proper treatment for healthier, attractive smiles, including root canal therapy. If you have a tooth or teeth that need some dental TLC, please feel free to reach out to our caring team by calling 801-788-4922 today. We will be happy to address your concerns and schedule a visit with our dentist.