When you need a root canal, it usually doesn’t come as a surprise. Root canals are routinely performed when an infection is present in the tooth, or pulp, or there has been excessive damage, leaving the tooth prone to an abscess. In an attempt to preserve your tooth, your dentist will recommend a root canal.
Although most patients dread the thought of root canals, what leads you to this procedure is usually more painful than the actual procedure itself. Infections deep within the tooth, and damaged pulp, are usually so painful, no relief can be found. The pain of an infected or damaged tooth can be so severe as to interrupt sleep, and prevent you from going about your normal, day-to-day activities. The procedure itself is no more uncomfortable than having a cavity filled.
Because infection is present, your dental professional may prescribe a course of antibiotics, and possibly some prescription pain relief. Many patients find satisfactory relief from any post-procedure pain by taking over-the-counter pain relievers, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Post-procedure pain typically doesn’t last beyond a few days.
What Warrants A Root Canal Procedure?
Your tooth is made up of passageways deep within, containing nerves and blood vessels, along with soft tissue called “pulp.” Each of your teeth can have three or more canals. If the tooth sustains damage, say, from a blow to the face, or decay that has gone unchecked, infection can develop within these canals. There’s usually no other way to prevent the spread of an infection within your tooth, or stop a painful abscess from forming, than performing a root canal.
What Happens During a Root Canal?
Preserving your natural tooth is optimum, so your dentist’s first course of treatment for infection within the tooth will be a root canal. Your dentist will make small holes in the crown of your tooth. Using minuscule instruments, he or she will go deep within your tooth’s root to extract all infected pulp. This controls the spread of infection, and helps stop any pain you may have. The tooth is then treated and sealed against further infection.
The pain experienced by a root canal treatment is minimal, and the procedure isn’t as invasive as oral surgery, therefore local anesthesia, such as that you receive when having a cavity filled, is preferred. If you have extreme anxiety, let your dental professional know ahead of time, and you may be able to have an alternative anesthesia or anxiety-reducing medication prior to your procedure. You’ll need someone with you to drive you home, in that case.
Immediately after your procedure, you should go home and rest. Take the day off so that you can begin healing. Relieve any pain as directed by your dentist, and care for the affected tooth by not chewing with it. Stick to soft foods for a few days, until the treated area isn’t so sensitive.
You’ll likely be sent home with your tooth sporting a temporary crown. At a later date, your dentist will affix a permanent crown. Be mindful of the temporary crown, as it may not be quite as strong as your future permanent crown. Avoid damaging your crown by crunching down on hard food, or ice.
It usually takes no more than a few days to recover, but if you find you have pain or are still fairly sensitive in the area around the tooth, call your dentist immediately. It may be nothing more than a heightened sensitivity, or it could be a return of the infection, so it is best to have it checked.
It’s never advisable to delay a needed root canal treatment. Some individuals may be able to endure the pain, but without treatment, the infection will continue to worsen. Once the infection spreads from your tooth’s roots to the surrounding gum tissue and jaw, you can develop an abscess, or even a systemic infection, affecting your entire body. A systemic infection could land you in the hospital and even threaten your life. Take care to seek treatment from a qualified dentist for a painful tooth immediately.
A root canal doesn’t have to be a “big deal.” Today’s dental professionals, like those at the Dental Health Associates of Madison, are highly experienced in performing root canals. The procedure takes a short time, can be done in the office, is minimally invasive, and is typically no more bothersome than having a cavity filled.
Most of the cost of a root canal is usually covered by dental insurance, and many dental offices will set up payment plans for the patient’s portion of the bill. Please contact Momentum Insurance Plans for more information about our excellent coverage options available for Wisconsin residents.
Please remember that avoiding the problem won’t make it go away, and could actually cause greater damage to your tooth, jaw, and overall health. If you suspect you need a root canal, please contact your dentist today!