Root canals: What to expect from a root canal procedure

Find out more about root canals

A dentist and his dental assistant examining the patient's teeth

“Root canal.” The very words have unpleasant associations for many. In fact, until recently, if someone asked, “What is a root canal?” the answer might be, “something you need, but not something you want.”

These days, however, a root canal procedure (also known as an endodontic treatment) has become a lot less painful. In fact, according to the American Association of Endodontists, today’s root canal experience is similar to a routine filling.

Getting to the root of the problem

Root canals are fairly common procedures because they can repair and save a tooth with a badly decayed or damaged interior. That damage could come from a crack or chip in the tooth, repeated dental procedures, faulty crowns, or other causes. And it can be there even if you don’t see any chips or cracks from the outside.

If you have a damaged tooth, it’s smart to get it treated as soon as possible. If the inside of a tooth or the nerve connected to it has serious problems, the tooth material begins to break down and bacteria begin to multiply. They may lodge in decaying debris and create an infection in the root canal of the tooth that could lead to:

  • Swelling that may spread to other areas of the face, neck, or head
  • An abscessed tooth (a pus-filled pocket formed at the end of the roots)
  • Bone loss around the root’s tip

Restoring a damaged tooth

p>A root canal procedure can be performed by both dentists and endodontists, and involves removing the inflamed or infected portions of the tooth. Then the inside of the tooth is carefully cleaned and disinfected. Next, the tooth is filled and sealed with a rubber-like material and restored with a crown or filling for protection. Once a tooth is repaired, it can function just like any other tooth for decades.

Modern root canal treatment may not be most people’s idea of fun but in most cases it’s not nearly as painful as it used to be. These days a root canal can usually be completed in one or two appointments and with little pain or discomfort once the work is complete.

The benefits of repair

Saving your tooth with root canal treatment has many advantages. According to the American Association of Endodontists, the benefits include:

  • Efficient chewing
  • Normal biting force and sensation
  • Natural appearance
  • Protection of other teeth from excessive wear or strain

Remember that ongoing dental care is always important and includes brushing, flossing and regular visits to the dentist. Your dentist can often detect problems when they are minor and help you avoid major treatment.

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