Root canals are a standard dental procedure many people undergo at some point in their lives. But what is a root canal, and what happens in a root canal before and after the procedure? This article will explore the causes of root canals and the benefits of this procedure.
After the dentist has told you that you need a root canal, you can expect to undergo a treatment to clean out the infected tooth pulp and seal the space with a filling.
Depending on the extent of the infection, you may experience pain and swelling in the area around the tooth.
The Basics of a Root Canal Treatment
A root canal is a dental procedure that removes the tooth’s infected pulp. This pulp is the soft tissue inside the tooth that contains nerve endings and blood vessels. The dentist cleans and seals the tooth’s root canals to protect it from infection. Root canals are often necessary when the pulp becomes infected or dies.
Also Read: What is an Emergency Root Canal?
How Do You Know You Need a Root Canal?
The most common cause of damage to the pulp of your tooth is an untreated cavity. You may have a cavity if you have toothache with pain that comes and goes without any other reason. Also, you may experience sensitivity to hot, cold, and sweet foods.
Sometimes, there is no pain or sensitivity. That happens when the nerve tissues in the pulp chamber are dead.
Other common causes of a pulp infection include:
- Decay is the most common cause of pulp infection. It’s also responsible for causing cavities. When decay reaches the pulp, it can cause inflammation and infection. If you have a cavity but don’t know yet, you may see black or brown staining on your tooth. This is a sign the decay is progressing, and you’re at risk of infection.
- A blow to the tooth can damage the tooth, allowing bacteria to reach the pulp and cause infection. If you have a fall, accident or injury that affects your mouth or jaw, it’s always a good idea to visit a dentist to be on the safe side.
- Some dental procedures, such as root canals and implants, can damage the tooth, leaving it vulnerable to infection. This is also true for medical procedures that involve the mouth, such as having a breathing tube or suction device placed.
- Poor oral hygiene can lead to gum disease, which places you at risk of infection. You might suspect gum disease if your gums are red, inflamed, bleeding, or receding. A receding gum line can expose the roots of a tooth, posing a risk for infection. With the accumulation of plaque and bacteria around the exposed teeth, you are at higher risk for an infection.
Also Read: How to Stop Root Cavities
What Happens During a Root Canal?
There are many steps involved in a root canal. The exact process and steps will vary depending on your situation. But here are the basic steps you can expect.
Before starting your root canal, the dentist will take X-rays. This will help the dentist see how much damage there is and whether a root canal is the best option.
Here are the steps that will be completed during your root canal procedure:
- A local anesthetic is used to numb the tooth and the surrounding area.
- A small rubber dam protects the tooth and prevents saliva from contaminating the area.
- Next, the dentist will drill a hole in the tooth’s crown.
- The dentist removes the infected nerves, blood vessels, and tissues inside the tooth.
- The empty canals are filled with a unique dental material called gutta-percha.
- Next, a temporary dental sealant is used. This prevents bacteria from re-entering.
- The temporary sealant is removed, and a cap or crown is placed.
What to Expect After a Root Canal
Most people experience minor pain and swelling after a root canal. These symptoms will fade within a few days and can be treated with Tylenol, Advil, and cold compresses. However, some people may experience sensitivity to hot and cold temperatures after a root canal. This sensitivity should fade within a few weeks.
You should avoid chewing hard foods and hot liquids until the anesthetic has worn off. With the numbing agent still in effect, you could injure the inside of your mouth and be unaware until you get full feeling back.
It is essential to keep up good oral hygiene after a root canal. Be sure to brush twice a day and floss daily. These steps can help prevent infection and ensure a successful treatment.
Are there any benefits to a Root Canal?
There are many benefits to a root canal versus a tooth extraction, not the least of which is stopping tooth pain. Here are a few:
- The natural tooth is preserved
- The infection is removed from the tooth
- There is less risk of the infection spreading to other parts of the body
- There is less risk of developing an abscess
- Relief from pain and discomfort
While some people may experience minor discomfort after a root canal, the benefits of this procedure typically outweigh any side effects. A root canal can help save a tooth that is infected or decayed, and it can also help prevent the development of an abscess.
Root Canal Vs. Tooth Extraction: Pros and Cons
When it comes to deciding whether or not to get a root canal, many people wonder if it is better to have the tooth extracted. Here is a look at some of the pros and cons of both procedures:
Root Canal: Pros
- Tooth is saved
- Infection cleared
Root Canal: Cons
- Chance of failure
- Pain and swelling
- Tooth sensitivity can linger
Tooth Extraction: Pros
- Less expensive
- Single appointment
Tooth Extraction: Cons
- More pain and swelling after
- Other teeth will shift to fill the gap, potentially causing bite problems
- Risk of infection, post-procedure
There are pros and cons to both choices. Only you can make the best choice for you.
Complications After a Root Canal
Complications of a root canal can include pain, swelling, infection, treatment failure, and sensitivity. In some cases, the pain and swelling may be severe. The infection may spread to other body parts. Maintaining good oral hygiene after a root canal and seeing your dentist for regular checkups and cleanings are crucial.
Exploring your options and learning about the different treatment choices available to you is an essential first step. Be sure to ask questions, so you know what to expect before and after your treatment.
Also Read: Root Canal: 20 Questions Answered
How long do root canals take to recover?
It will take about a week to recover from a root canal. Most people experience pain and swelling after a root canal, which should fade within a few days. The pain can be treated with over-the-counter pain medication.
Some people may experience sensitivity to hot and cold after a root canal, which should dissipate within weeks. Many complications can be avoided if you practice good oral hygiene post-procedure. Follow any specific instructions you’ve been given (including brushing twice daily, flossing, and not eating crunchy/hard foods).
What should you not do before a root canal?
The dentist will use a local anesthetic during a root canal to numb your pain. Since these medications can interact with tobacco and alcohol, you should avoid those substances for a total of 24 hours before your procedure.
What happens after the first session of the root canal?
After the anesthetic has worn off, you might feel pain and tenderness. Also, your jaw might be sore from being held open during the procedure. Both of these symptoms will fade within a few days.
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