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What Is a Root Canal?

A root canal is a dental treatment for the infected pulp of the tooth that removes the infection and helps stop it from spreading or getting worse. Dental pulp is found in the center of the tooth and houses the nerve. The pulp may get damaged, begin to weaken, and bacteria may grow within the pulp. This creates an abscess or an infection inside of the tooth or even in the gum. In addition to removing the infection, a root canal also stops the pain you’re feeling.

During the procedure, a dentist or endodontist drills a hole into the tooth to clean the infection out of the pulp. Once the infection is removed, the tooth will be sealed. Then, you’ll need to undergo very minor preventive care to keep another infection from occurring. A dental crown or other restoration is often used after the root canal to help secure the future health and viability of the tooth as well as your smile.



Signs You May Need A Root Canal

The only certain way to know you need a root canal is to visit the dentist or endodontist. Generally, some signs that indicate you may need a root canal include the following:

  • Severe tooth pain when you chew or place pressure on your tooth. Severe pain in a tooth is often a sign of infection. Even if you don’t need a root canal, it is a good idea to go and see the dentist so that you can get your infection taken care of.
  • Prolonged sensitivity to hot or cold temperatures. You may continue to have pain even after the removal of the hot or cold temperature.
  • Tooth discoloration. An infected tooth may  begin to turn darker than the teeth near it. If the infection remains for too long, the tooth may turn brown or gray.
  • Gum swelling and tenderness. Swelling is often a sign of infection. Make a dental appointment right away to get this checked out.
  • A persistent or recurring “pimple” on the gums. A “pimple” on the gum is a sign of infection in the root of the tooth.

Root Canal Prevention

There are simple things you can do to prevent the need for a root canal. First, adopt and maintain good oral hygiene practices: brush your teeth twice a day and floss once per day. Second, avoid hard foods such as hard candies and lollipops. Also, don’t chew on ice. Third, if you grind your teeth wear a mouthguard at night or when you play sports. Also, try to avoid or at least minimize acidic drinks and food like soda and citrus juices. Make sure that you have regular dental checkups and cleanings. Most importantly, get any tooth pain checked immediately.

What Happens During a Root Canal?

First, a dentist examines your mouth and takes an X-ray of the tooth to determine if a root canal is absolutely needed, and to see the shape of the root. Once it is determined a root canal is needed, your dentist will use a local anesthetic to numb the area, but if the nerve is completely dead, anesthetic may not be needed. Yet, most still use one just to make the patient more comfortable. Next, they dry the area of saliva and place a rubber dam around the tooth. The dentist will drill an access hole. The pulp, the infection, and any debris found is removed. This is done by using root files, a set of files that increase in diameter as the procedure continues. 

The file is inserted into the access hole and worked down the full length of the tooth to scrape and clean the sides of the root canal. The dentist will flush the debris out periodically. Once the tooth is cleaned, it needs to be sealed. The time between the cleaning and the sealing may differ depending on your dentist. Your dentist may decide to apply special medicine inside the tooth that is meant to clear up any potential remaining infection and wait to seal the tooth. Others may seal the tooth the same day with a temporary filling.



What You Should Expect After a Root Canal

While the root canal should relieve the pain, you still need to minimize chewing on the tooth to avoid recontamination and to prevent the fragile tooth from breaking. Take an over-the-counter pain medication like Tylenol or ibuprofen if you are experiencing any sensitivity or discomfort. When it comes to the oral health care of the affected area, brush and floss regularly and keep your dental checkups on schedule. The final step after the root canal is the application of a crown or a filling to restore the tooth and return the appearance of the tooth.

Where Can I Get a Root Canal?

Many general dentists, such as Smile Generation-trusted dentists, offer professional dentistry services. Need to find a dentist near you? The Smile Generation helps you find qualified general or cosmetic dentists in your area, read patient reviews, browse staff bios, and request your first appointment online in minutes.