Ah, root canals—perhaps the most dreaded of all dental procedures. Not only do the words “root canal” strike fear into the hearts of dental patients young and old, but it also compels many a penny-pincher to begin gripping their wallets. Root canals, however, are important preventative procedures that can actually save you money in the long run by eliminating the need for dental implants in the future.
When Is A Root Canal Necessary?
Very simply, a root canal becomes necessary when a tooth becomes infected. Dental infection occurs when tooth decay or trauma exposes the soft tissue in the center of the tooth, known as dental pulp. Food remnants after meals are converted to acids capable of eating through the enamel of your teeth over time if plaque remains on and in-between your teeth. Dental trauma, on the other hand, may cause a more immediate break in the enamel barrier. In either case, once a tooth’s enamel is compromised, decaying foods, bacteria, and other debris make their way into the pulp chamber and begin to rot the soft tissue and nerves within. If this condition is left untreated, infection will fester and spread through the root into the bone as well as to the gums around the tooth. All in all, the consequences of ignoring a dental infection, or abscess, range from bad to worse.
Signs and Symptoms That May Indicate the Need for A Root Canal
While some dental patients don’t realize the need for a root canal procedure until it is time for a check-up, most are painfully aware of the problem well in advance of an office visit. As early intervention with a root canal can save you from pain and suffering and a lot of money in the long run, it is important to keep your regularly scheduled visits and be aware of the signs and symptoms between visits. Here is what to look out for:
- Dental pain and/or swelling
- Sensitivity to hot or cold food
- Tooth discoloration
- Gums bleeding during brushing
- Recurring pimple-like sores on the gums near the suspected tooth
- Foul taste in the mouth or bad breath
In more severe cases of infection, bacteria can reproduce in numbers great enough to cause problems in other areas of the body. For instance, bacteria can enter the blood stream via bleeding gums around the affected tooth and cause cardiovascular problems such as inflammation of the blood vessels, heading to heart attack or stroke. Other indirect effects include a suppressed immune system, digestive problems, complications with pregnancy, and diabetes, just to name a few.
The Root Canal Procedure
Though the course of a root canal procedure can vary from patient to patient depending on the severity of infection, the type and number of teeth involved, and where the affected teeth are located in the mouth, a typical procedure can be accomplished with one or two office visits. A root canal procedure consists of creating an access in the top of the tooth for the removal of the diseased pulp with the use of specialized files. Once the infected pulp is removed, the inside of the tooth is then cleaned, disinfected, and packed with a filling to prevent the return of bacteria in the future. Once this initial procedure is performed, the tooth will be weak and brittle due to a lack of blood and nerve supply. This makes the tooth much more vulnerable to fracture. In order to strengthen the weakened tooth, a post may be inserted to hold the foundation in place. After it is determined that the infection has been totally removed, a crown is placed on top of tooth to strengthen it and reduce the chance of fracture in the future.
Once your time in the chair is over, you can expect a day or two of soreness. Don’t worry. Your dentist can provide you with medicine to ease the pain in those first few days as well as a prescription for antibiotics to fight off any residual bacteria. After the big day is over and the pain is at bay, it might be tempting to skip out on your follow-up visits. Don’t do it. The extra visit could mean the difference between a successful procedure and starting the process all over again.
Think you may be in need of a root canal? Call our office today to make an appointment, and we’ll have you back on the road to good dental health in no time.
Give Dr. Diane a Call at (604) 736-7373
#202-2732 West Broadway, Vancouver, BC