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The 411 on Root Canals

The name root canal has the power to induce dread in people. If you were to ask people what a root canal is or why they’re afraid, you’re likely to get all sorts of answers.  As with many things, fear thrives in ignorance. But some basic knowledge can go a long way towards calming fears. So let’s take a few minutes to learn about the dreaded root canal.

What is a Root Canal?

A root canal treatment becomes necessary when the tissues inside your tooth,  the pulp, become infected. Deep decay (cavities), chips and/or cracks in the surface of your tooth is where the infections usually begin. The infection can then spread down the pulp and through the root canals of your teeth into tissues of your gums. This can cause the formation of an abscess which is a very severe and painful infection that can be dangerous to your overall health.  

Do I Need a Root Canal?

Sensitivity to temperature and touch and inflamed and sensitive gums around the tooth are all signs that an infection that may require a root canal. Your dentist can decide if a root canal is necessary for your condition by hearing about your specific conditions and examining your teeth. Some dentists perform their own root canals, but others may refer you outside their office to an endodontist. An endodontist is a specialist dentist who specializes in treating the insides of your teeth.

Root Canal Procedure

In a root canal treatment your dentist or endodontist drills down into the crown of your infected tooth and removes the infected pulp from inside the tooth and the root canals. When we have reached adulthood our teeth no longer require the pulp and continue to be nourished by the surrounding tissues once the pulp is gone. A biocompatible material is used to temporarily fill the now-empty space inside your tooth where the pulp once was until restoration can begin. In some cases, if tooth decays has compromised one of the roots, and the tooth is now unstable, a tiny metal rod may need to be inserted down into the root to hold the tooth in place in your gums.  

In the final stage of the process, a crown is created and placed over your compromised tooth. Your dentist or specialist creates the crown, matching it to the natural shade of your teeth, and uses it to close up the vulnerable area of the tooth. Several days later, after the swelling of the inflamed tissues goes down, the “new” tooth can be used just like your natural teeth.

Things to Know

Many people refuse to undergo root canals because they’ve heard the procedure will be painful or because they may have heard “horror stories” of complications. Most of these stories are just stories, and any truth comes from decades ago, before modern technology and anesthetics.  Nowadays, the procedure is only about as painful as getting a filling. 

So the big, bad root canal is not as scary as you may have heard. Instead, it’s a procedure designed to alleviate pain and preserve your natural smile, allowing you to chew properly and smile confidently. Still, as with most procedures, it’s better not to need them in the first place.  Brushing twice a day, flossing daily and keeping regular exams with Dr. Vernon Sheen are all important steps to avoid needing a root canal, especially if your teeth have recently developed any chips or cracks. However, if you do need a root canal, now you know there’s nothing to fear. To schedule with Dr. Sheen today, call 443.482.5202 or schedule an appointment online.