If there is one procedure that really gets a bad rap, it’s the root canal. For some reason, people equate this procedure with extreme pain, although it is no more painful than having a cavity filled. Plus, the rumors of medieval torture keep many patients from enjoying the true benefit of a root canal — the ability to save a tooth that otherwise will need to be extracted.
Some dentists send you to another specialist for root canals, but the extensive experience of the team at Gentle Dental enables us to perform these procedures in our own Edison offices.
What is a root canal?
The root canal is named after the chamber inside the tooth root (the part of the tooth that anchors down into the jawbone). This “canal” is made up of the pulp chamber, the main canals, and smaller canals. The chambers contain the pulp, which is made up of blood vessels, nerves, and connective tissues. They provide the nourishment for the tooth, along with sensory responses to things like hot and cold…and pain.
What happens to the root canal to cause pain?
Bacteria are the enemy. When bacteria create decay in a tooth, that decay is usually confined to the enamel, the tooth’s outer layer. Regular exams with the team at Gentle Dental can usually catch decay before it has gone through the enamel into the interior of the tooth, the dentin. Once the infection is inside the tooth, the fun begins in the form of pain. The infection spreads through the soft tissue, including the nerves. And that becomes more and more painful as the infection grows. Not only does your tooth hurt, but it is also now in danger. If the infection is not addressed the tooth will need to be extracted. Plus, the infection can spread from the tooth down into the gums and beyond. Not good.
Root canal to the rescue
That’s where the trusty root canal comes in. We drill a small hole in the top of the tooth and send in the cavalry in the form of small dental tools that remove all of the infected soft tissue in the tooth. This includes the nerves. We sterilize the now-empty interior of the tooth and fill it with a sterile alternative called gutta percha. In most cases, a crown is then placed over the tooth to give it strength. If the access hole was small enough, a filling may be all that is needed. Now your tooth is empty and free of infection. The interior tissue isn’t necessary for mature teeth to remain in your mouth; those tissues help when the tooth is first growing and developing. The tooth can last the rest of your life in many cases.
No more pain
And, just as importantly, you no longer have the extreme pain that your infected tooth was causing. That’s where people get mixed up — the infection caused the extreme pain, NOT the root canal. The root canal, remember, removes all of the nerve tissues in the tooth, so it can’t feel a thing any longer. You may have a little soreness from having your mouth open, and from lingering after-effects of the infection pain, but overall your pain should be virtually nil, little more than some aching for a day or two.
See? Root canals are your friend…at least if you like keeping your teeth! Do you have extreme tooth pain or sensitivity? Call the team at Gentle Dental, (732) 549-5660, and let us check it out. You may need a root canal to save your tooth.