A root canal is one dental procedure that has gotten a bad rap over the years. Although the notion of needing a root canal may strike fear into the hearts of many dental patients, the fact is that a root canal is usually a relatively common procedure – and one that can often save a tooth that might otherwise need to be extracted. The process involves the dentist removing the pulp and nerves from a tooth that is badly decayed. If you need a root canal, the first thing that comes to mind may be “Do root canals hurt?” To answer that question and others, we’ve compiled this article describing what’s involved in a root canal and when it may be needed for patients from throughout the Austin, Texas area.
What You Should Know About Root Canals
Although the exact steps involved in a root canal may vary slightly from one patient to the next, the basics of the procedure usually remain the same and include the following:
- Your dentist will thoroughly numb the affected tooth. If you’re nervous about the procedure, your dentist may recommend some form of dental sedation as well to help you relax.
- The dentist will remove all bacteria and decay from the tooth, including the tooth pulp, root and nerve.
- The next step involves filling the empty roots and sealing off the tooth to prevent any new decay from forming.
- In some cases, your dentist will want to affix a crown on top of the tooth for an added measure of protection.
When Do You Need a Root Canal?
A tooth consists of several layers: the enamel layer on the outside; a dentin layer right underneath the enamel; and the core of the tooth, which includes pulp, nerves, connective tissue and blood vessels. When tooth decay reaches the core of the tooth, the pulp can become infected or can even be effectively killed by the decay. In these instances, a root canal is necessary to remove the pulp and nerves. Since a tooth doesn’t need these to function normally, a tooth that has undergone a root canal works just the same as any other tooth (although a root canal does somewhat weaken the tooth, which is why your dentist may recommend a crown to prevent further damage from occurring and to strengthen what remains of the tooth).
What follows are some typical symptoms that may indicate you need a root canal:
- Pain – Tooth pain is one of the signs that you may need a root canal. Whether the pain is consistent, or comes and goes, if you have a bad toothache that doesn’t go away on its own, it may be an indication that tooth decay has advanced and is affecting the core of the tooth. This type of pain is often felt deep into the bone supporting the tooth, and can also manifest as pain in the jaw or even in surrounding teeth. Also, if you notice pain when you bite down or press on the tooth, it is often a symptom of needing a root canal. Keep in mind that not every toothache means you need a root canal, but if you experience persistent pain, it’s likely that you have a problem that needs attention from your dentist.
- Sensitivity – If you have a specific tooth that feels sensitive to hot and cold food and beverages, it might mean that you need a root canal. When decay has reached the core of a tooth and has damaged the nerves and blood vessels there, it typically causes the tooth to be sensitive.
- Discoloration – When the pulp of your tooth is infected, it often discolors the tooth. This commonly happens if the pulp of the tooth has died due to decay. If you notice a tooth that has become gray or even black in color, it can mean that a root canal is called for.
- Swollen gum tissue – If you notice that your gums are swollen and tender around a certain tooth, or if you see what looks like a small pimple on your gums, it could be an indication that infection is present in the affected tooth.
- Cracked, chipped or loose tooth – One of the easiest ways for infection to form inside a tooth is when it becomes cracked or chipped and bacteria is allowed to enter the tooth, which may require a root canal. An infected tooth may also feel loose.
Does a Root Canal Hurt?
Don’t let the myths about root canals scare you. The fact is that a root canal is no more uncomfortable or painful than any other dental procedure – that is to say that the vast majority of patients feel absolutely no pain at all during a root canal. Thanks to modern dental technology, and the use of local anaesthetic to thoroughly numb the tooth and surrounding gums, you won’t feel anything other than some slight pressure during the procedure.
It is important to remember that a root canal may take longer than some other dental procedures, so if you’re nervous about it, be sure to ask your dentist what type of dental sedation is available. Most dentists offer a variety of sedation methods that allow you to stay awake but remain completely calm throughout a lengthy procedure. These methods include nitrous oxide (laughing gas), oral sedation, and/or IV sedation. Talk to your dentist about which would be the best choice for you.
To find out more about root canals, contact your Austin, Texas dentist today. And remember – if you experience any of the symptoms associated with a root canal, make an appointment with your dentist right away. Although you may not need this procedure, any of the symptoms listed above may be an indication that you need some other dental procedure. When it comes to oral health care, the sooner you address the problem, the easier it is to resolve. So in answer to the question “does a root canal hurt?” we have good news! Thanks to modern dental technology, most patients feel no pain during a root canal procedure.