When you think of root canal, you think dentist, drilling and pain, but that is not all there is to know. A root canal is actually the part of your tooth that has the nerve endings and pulp. The pulp is what holds all the nerve endings and blood vessels in your tooth so that you can feel the heat and coldness on your tooth. It also helps provide vitamins and minerals to your teeth to help make them stronger.
You do not necessarily need to have your nerve endings or pulp in your tooth in order to keep your tooth and use it every day. They are not needed after the tooth has fully grown into your mouth. Your root is what keeps your tooth in your gums.
How do I know if I need a root canal?
The nerve endings in your teeth help you feel how hot or cold something that you eat or drink is. Sometimes, after eating or drinking something very cold or hot, your tooth may start aching. Or while you are chewing something, your teeth hurt every time you bite down. That is a toothache.
Most of the time, a toothache happens when the pulp within the tooth is damaged by a crack or chip in the tooth, getting hit in the face really hard or by having really bad cavities. Once the pulp and nerve endings are damaged they will start to break down, an infection can set in or you could get an abscess. An abscess is a pocket filled with pus at the bottom of your roots.
There are also some visible signs that you may need a root canal. There may some dark spots on your tooth, in the gums around your tooth; you may have some tenderness and swelling and you may even have a pimple on your gums that comes and goes or is constantly there. That is how you know you need to see your dentist and get a root canal.
How is the procedure done? Will it hurt?
Your dentist will start by taking X-rays of your teeth to see how the root canal is shaped and to see if there is any infection in the surrounding area. After that is determined, your dentist will use an anesthetic to help numb the area around the tooth. Then he will place a sheet of rubber around your tooth to help keep it dry.
Now your dentist will drill a small hole into your tooth, and using different sized files, pull out the pulp and nerve endings and scrape away any excess debris. Sometimes he may use water or sodium hypochlorite to help flush it away.
Once your tooth is completely cleaned out, your dentist will seal it. Depending on your dentist, your tooth may be sealed the same day or at a different appointment. When sealing your tooth, your dentist will use a rubber compound and sealer paste called gutta percha. Sometimes you may need other dental procedures in order to restore your tooth back to normal.
The procedure itself does not hurt because of the anesthetic, but for a few days following the procedure you may have slight pain due to normal inflammation. Don’t let fear or worry stop you from getting a root canal if you need one; now that you know what it is and what it entails, you should know there’s no cause for concern.