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What is a Root Canal (and Do I Really Need One)?

Model of tooth root.

Have you ever had a toothache so severe it feels like your tooth has its own heartbeat? Or, have you found yourself wincing when sipping hot coffee or eating ice cream? These are common experiences that may lead you to book a dentist appointment only to find out you may need a root canal.

Of course, you've heard of root canals, but what, exactly, does this treatment entail, and is it really necessary?

Understanding Root Canal Therapy

At its core, a root canal is an extremely common dental procedure that is done in order to save a badly decayed or infected tooth. Within each tooth, beneath the outer enamel and hard inner dentin layer, lies a soft tissue known as the pulp. The pulp includes blood vessels, nerves, and other tissue.

When the pulp is damaged by severe decay, multiple dental procedures on the tooth, large fillings, chips or cracks, or trauma, it can become infected or inflamed. Left untreated, this infection can cause pain or lead to an abscess. Luckily, a fully developed tooth can survive and function even after the decayed pulp is removed.

Signs You May Need a Root Canal

Some signs that may indicate the need for a root canal include:

If you're experiencing any of these symptoms, it's important to make a dental appointment right away. We can assess the situation and tell you if a root canal or another dental procedure is necessary.

The Procedure: Not as Scary as You Think

Just the thought of getting a root canal can make many patients extremely nervous. However, with modern dental technology and anesthesia, the procedure is much less daunting than its unfortunate reputation—often no more uncomfortable than getting a filling.

Here's a simplified breakdown of what happens during a root canal:

Anesthesia: We will start by numbing the affected tooth and surrounding area with local anesthesia, ensuring you feel no pain during the procedure.

Removing the Infected Pulp: A small opening is created in the tooth to gain access the pulp chamber. The infected pulp is then carefully removed, and the inside of the tooth is cleaned and disinfected.

Filling the Tooth: After the tooth is clean and dry, it's filled with a biocompatible material. The opening is then sealed with a temporary or permanent filling.

Restoration: In some cases, a tooth that requires a patient will also need a dental crown to protect and restore it to full function.

Do You Really Need One?

If your trusted dentist recommends root canal treatment, you should take that recommendation seriously. A root canal is aimed at saving a tooth that might otherwise need to be removed. Tooth loss has the potential to lead to other problems, such as shifting or loss of remaining teeth, difficulty eating, and loss of jawbone density. A root canal is often the best option to preserve your natural tooth, maintain your oral health, and keep your smile intact.

If you're experiencing dental pain or discomfort, the best course of action is to consult with our office. We can provide a thorough examination and discuss whether a root canal or another treatment is the right option for you.

If you think you might need a root canal, or if it's just been a while since your last dental checkup, book an appointment today!


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