What’s a root canal? Very simply, it is the process of removing infected pulp or an infected root, in order to prevent reinfection of the tooth and save the tooth.
You may need to get a root canal when you break or chip a tooth. You may also need a root canal if a cavity goes deep enough to infect the tooth. That’s why we recommend regular dental check ups and cleanings to catch cavities before they need a root canal.
Your dentist will perform a root canal when the pulp made up of nerves and blood vessels in the tooth becomes infected or damaged. We’ll remove the pulp, the nerve in the tooth, clean the inside of the tooth and seal it.
How Painful is a Root Canal?
As dentists, we get asked this question a lot: How painful is a root canal? It’s important to keep in mind that a root canal’s reputation’s bark is worse than its bite. Years ago, a root canal was a very painful experience. Thanks to modern advances in numbing agents and pain remedy, root canals these days are really a piece of cake. Aside from the initial pinch when we apply the numbing agent, you really shouldn’t feel a thing. If you do, just tell us. We can always apply more pain relief. We want this experience to be as comfortable as possible.
Sometimes you may experience some discomfort the next day. This can usually be treated with over the counter pain medications like Tylenol or Advil. You might also try putting some cold compresses on it or drink some lukewarm peppermint tea. Placing cool peppermint tea bags against the tooth may also help.
Do You Need to See a Root Canal Dentist?
Most dentists are trained to do root canals — that’s what we went to school for! But sometimes a root canal requires a highly specialized root canal dentist — otherwise known as an endodontist. You’ll need to see an endodontist if the root canal is in a tooth that is hard to get to, the root is particularly deep, or the tooth is badly damaged. If you need a more specialized root canal dentist, your regular dentist can usually recommend an endodontist.
Why Does Tooth Pulp Need to Be Removed by a Root Canal?
Whenever a tooth’s nerve pulp gets damaged, it breaks down and becomes infected with bacteria. Sometimes this can even result in an abscessed tooth — a pus-filled pocket that forms at the end of the roots of the tooth. A tooth can become abscessed when the infection spreads all the way past the ends of the roots of the tooth. Infected teeth can also cause facial swelling. It may spread to other areas of the body and cause sickness. If not treated, this infection can even be fatal.
Signs You Need a Root Canal
Your dentist will decide if you need a root canal, but there are a number of signs you may need one. These include:
- Lingering tooth pain, especially when you eat something hot or cold.
- Intense shooting pain when you bite or chew.
- Chipped, cracked, or broken teeth.
- Swollen or painful gums.
- Pimples on your gums.
Can I Go to Work or School After a Root Canal?
You can immediately return to normal living following a root canal. Your lip or jaw may be numb for a few hours following the root canal, but that should be the extent of your recovery. Occasionally, your jaw may hurt after an intense root canal when the numbing agent wears off. This pain can be managed with over-the-counter pain medications such as Tylenol or Advil. Sometimes, we may prescribe you something stronger, depending on the nature of the root canal.