Few things are more painful than an infected tooth, but you are more likely to experience trepidation than pain when you get the tooth fixed in a procedure called a root canal treatment. The root canal therapy or treatment involves drilling in, removing the infected pulp inside the tooth, and then cleaning the cavity out. The dentist then fills it and seals it. The whole process feels a lot like having a filling done.
How intense is root canal pain?
A root canal treatment is ultimately going to be a pain reliever for you. If you have root canal pain after the procedure, it may or may not be normal. It is completely normal to feel a little tenderness or sensitivity after the procedure – after all, you have just had minor surgery! Your gums may be a little swollen due to the area healing from the infection, or due to all of the instruments, your dentist was using during the procedure.
The goal of a root canal treatment is to save the natural tooth and prevent tooth extraction. This does require a bit of work, hence feeling a little sore.
You may also notice that the crown is not quite smooth enough so your cheeks are sore. All of this should resolve in a few days. If you find that it doesn’t and it stays in the pain category, not the ache category, you should call your dentist right away so he or she can check and see what is going on.
What is a root canal treatment?
A root canal treatment can be done either by a dentist or an endodontist. It is one of the more common dental procedures with over 15 million done every year, according to the American Association of Endodontists. Root canals are not the procedure, but rather the part of the center of the tooth where the pulp is located in the tooth root, or the area with the connective tissue that anchors your teeth in place, as well as the nerves and blood vessels that feed the tooth.
If you don’t treat the infected tooth, you can actually cause a loss of bone under the tooth and maybe even cause the infection to get into the bloodstream that will lead to infection elsewhere in the body.
You may be given a course of antibiotics to take before the procedure both to deal with the infection in the tooth and also, in general, to keep bacteria from spreading. You will have some X-rays taken once your dentist has identified you may need a root canal treatment or root canal therapy so he or she knows exactly what needs to be done.
When you begin the procedure, the dentist will give you a local anesthetic injection, or give you gas if you have elected to do sleep dentistry. In any case, you won’t feel the procedure. He or she may even give you a topical anesthetic to numb the injection, so you really won’t feel a thing.
He or she will then drill into the tooth and begin removing the damaged material inside. Once open, your dentist will clean out the dead or infected pulp and nerves inside the tooth.
When the tooth is all clean, your dentist will fill the tooth with a material called Gutta-percha to replace the pulp that was removed.
You will then get a cap or crown on the top to seal off the tooth again and return it to being a useful part of your mouth. If you have an infected tooth that needs to have time for the infection to clear, you may be given a temporary filling that can easily be removed to finish the process.
When do you need to have a root canal treatment?
A root canal treatment goes beyond a filling for a cavity. Here are some of the factors that put you into the category of needing a root canal treatment.
- Constant and significant pain – You will find that eating and drinking is almost impossible without pain.
- Tooth sensitivity – If you don’t have pain all the time, you might have a tooth that is really sensitive to temperatures, both hot and cold, making coffee or tea hard to drink. It can also occur with pressure or when you brush and floss.
- A broken tooth – If you have a big crack or chip or are missing part of your tooth, you are at a greater risk for needing a root canal treatment. That break in the tooth can let food and bacteria get into the tooth and cause an infection.
- Swollen gums – You may see swollen gums that are a sign of infection below the gum line.
- Dark or discolored teeth – This can be an indication of stain from tea, coffee, or dark sodas, but it can also be an indication of a damaged tooth that has some blood vessel injury.
How to care for your teeth after a root canal treatment
Maintaining good oral health is essential for the ongoing care of your teeth. Plus you will want to be sure to follow the diet you are given. You will no doubt be told not to chew on that tooth until everything has healed, particularly if you were only given a temporary cap while you wait for your appointment for the permanent one.
After the procedure, you may be given a course of antibiotics to take and some pain medications. If you were not, you should be able to take care of the pain with over-the-counter pain relievers.
Avoid eating hard candies or chewing on ice cubes, as these can damage the surface of your teeth. If you are in sports where you might get hit, like football or basketball, you should consider wearing a mouth guard to protect your teeth from impact.
You should keep up a good brushing and flossing routine that includes brushing twice a day and flossing daily. That way your tooth with the root canal treatment will stay clean and the rest of the teeth are going to benefit as well. Your repaired tooth will be strong but not as strong as the other teeth around it, so you need to be sure to take good care of it. With care, root canal treatments are highly successful with a 95% success rate and they can last for the rest of your life.
Finding a top-quality dentist is also important both for ongoing care and also for making sure that any dental work you have done is well done since one of the factors leading to weak teeth is improperly done dental work.
Ultimately you need not fear a root canal procedure. The root canal pain that you might experience is a relief compared to the pain of the damaged tooth. It shouldn’t cause any more pain than a regular filling does, and when it heals, you should be pain-free and healthier than before.
IVANOV Orthodontic Experts, 12866 Biscayne Blvd, North Miami, FL 33181
Call us at (786) 540-1919 to schedule a free orthodontic exam.
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