Getting to the Root of the Issue: Information About Root Canals

Most people are familiar with the term "root canal" and associate the procedure with quite a lot of pain and general unpleasantness. So if your dentist tells you that you need one, you may initially be quite worried. Luckily, there's really no reason to be anxious, as root canals are far less invasive and uncomfortable than most people think. Having your questions answered should help calm your worries.

1. What does a dentist actually do during a root canal?

The term "root canal" actually refers to a part of your tooth, not to the procedure itself. What you're really having done is called a "root canal procedure" or an "endodontic treatment." Basically, your dentist will be removing all of the tissue from inside your tooth's root canal, which is the inner chamber of the tooth's root. This tissue consists of nerves and blood vessels. 

Your dentist will first drill a hole in your tooth to access the root canal. They'll then use scrapers and suction tools to remove the tissue before filling an empty root canal with silicone. Then, they'll fill the access hole as they would fill a cavity. Then, they will put a crown on the tooth for protection and strength.

2. Will your tooth be dead after a root canal?

Yes, it will be. Your dentist is removing the tooth's living tissue. However, this does not mean the tooth can't stay in your mouth and be functional. As long as it is protected by a crown, you can keep it in place with no ill effects.

3. Will the root canal hurt?

No. If your dentist were to start drilling into your tooth with no anesthesia, it would definitely hurt — but they would never do that. You'll be given several injections of a local anesthetic to make sure your tooth is completely numb before your dentist starts working. You will feel some vibrations from the drill, but no overt pain.

4. What is the recovery process like?

You might be surprised to learn that there's really no recovery needed after a root canal. If your dentist puts a temporary crown on your tooth for a week or two until they're able to put a permanent crown on, you will need to avoid eating really chewy or crunchy foods until you get your permanent crown. Your jaw may be a little sore from holding your mouth open for so long, but a dose of ibuprofen should take care of that.

Now that you know a little more about root canals, hopefully you'll feel more confident about getting this dental work done. It's not as painful as it sounds, and if your dentist has recommended it, then it's likely the best choice for you.