Comfortable Root Canal TherapySometimes a tooth is too decayed or damaged to be fixed with a simple filling -- but it may not be so far gone that it needs to be removed completely. The goal of conservative dentistry is to help you keep all of your teeth for as long as possible, and root canal therapy helps with that. This is a common restorative procedure that can keep a tooth functioning properly for decades afterwards. Keep reading to learn much more about root canals -- and what you can expect if you need one yourself.
What Is a Root Canal? Does It Hurt?
A root canal is a treatment that allows your dentist to bring back the form and function of a tooth by cleaning out all of the infected tissue and placing a sturdy restoration back on top. This is an oral procedure that is completed under local anesthesia and possibly sedation for additional relaxation. Today, root canals have a high success rate and can keep the tooth stable and functioning properly for a long time to come.
Root canal procedures have developed a reputation of being painful or something to dread, but thanks to modern methods and materials, most patients do not feel anything during the treatment. The pain of the toothache leading up to the procedure is far worse than anything you experience at the dentist. Rather, the root canal is the way to help you get out of pain and on with your life.
When Is a Root Canal Necessary?
Your dentist will recommend a root canal when the interior of the tooth, or the part known as the pulp, becomes damaged. This is the soft inner tissue that lies beneath the enamel and dentin. When ignored for long enough, a cavity will eventually reach the pulp — and, because this is where all the sensitive nerve endings live, you are likely to experience some real pain as a result. The pulp may also become damaged due to an injury or facial trauma.
What Are the Warning Signs I Need a Root Canal?
If you have a severely infected or damaged tooth, getting the appropriate treatment right away is very important. If allowed to worsen, the tooth is at a high risk of abscessing and placing your overall health at risk. Some of the warning signs that can help you identify a problem tooth in need of root canal include:
- A dull, persistent toothache
- Lingering sensitivity to heat, cold, air, and pressure
- Jaw pain
- Noticeable darkening or graying of the tooth
- Foul odor erupting from the tooth
- A red, irritated bump on the gums below the tooth
- Gum recession, where you can see the gum tissue pulling away from where it should be beside the tooth
What Is the Process for a Root Canal?
Most root canal procedures take place over the course of at least two visits to our office. Sometimes, for less severe infections, the treatment can be completed in a single appointment. After we are sure you are completely comfortable, your dentist will remove all of the tissue from the interior of the tooth using special tools. Then, the root canals are measured, smoothed, and sanitized. A biocompatible material known as gutta percha fills them back up. Sometimes, local antibiotic is applied directly to the infection to speed healing. A temporary or permanent filling is then placed. If two appointments are required, you will return one to two weeks later for the completion of the procedure.
What Is the Recovery Like after a Root Canal?
Minor bleeding, swelling, and discomfort are to be expected after your root canal procedure. Place a gauze to the would to stop the blood and use an ice pack in the first 36 hours to reduce swelling. Rest with your head elevated and manage discomfort either with medication you have been prescribed or with an over-the-counter pain relief.
Root canal therapy is a common procedure these days, but it is still an oral surgery — and that means you will need to pencil in enough time to rest and relax after the treatment is complete. Take it easy for a day or two to allow your body to recover. Sticking to soft foods will be easier on your jaw and also protect the treatment site — scrambled eggs, fruit purees, and soup are all excellent and nutritious options.
Following our directions can help you enjoy an easy and speedy recovery. If your symptoms worsen or do not improve after several days, however, you should get in touch with us right away.
How Can I Prevent Root Canals?
Root canal procedures are highly preventable. The best way to ensure that one will not happen to you is to visit our office regularly for checkups and cleanings. This is the time when we examine all the teeth for weak spots in the decay that could indicate future cavities — and, if they are caught early, these areas can be strengthened with a fluoride treatment to prevent decay from occurring at all. Small cavities that are treated early never penetrate beyond the outer layer of enamel, keeping your smile safe from root canals.
Another important factor for preventing the need for this procedure is maintaining excellent oral hygiene at home. Good tips for healthy smiles include:
- Brushing your teeth for two minutes, twice a day
- Brushing with fluoride toothpaste to strengthen tooth enamel
- Flossing between teeth daily
- Using an alcohol-free mouthwash to kill germs and freshen breath
- Eating a nutritious, low-sugar diet
- Avoiding cigarettes and tobacco
Schedule an Appointment Today
If you have an aching or damaged tooth or just want to do everything you can to prevent a root canal, we are here to help! Do not hesitate to get in touch with our office to book an appointment. We are pleased to serve patients from San Antonio and beyond.