A First-Timer’s Guide to Root Canal Treatment

root canal.It’s often said that there’s a first time for everything: Driving a car by yourself; getting your first “real” job; even… having a root canal?

Now don’t get us wrong — we’re not wishing that anyone should go through a medical procedure, no matter how minor. Yet the fact remains: A root canal procedure is one of the most common treatments performed in many dental offices… and, especially for first-timers, it’s one of the most misunderstood.

Let’s start off with the biggest misconception of all. Have you heard that a root canal is an exceptionally painful treatment? Get ready for some news: It just isn’t so. The fact is, in the vast majority of cases, having a root canal procedure is comparable to cavity treatment in terms of discomfort. Yet it brings immediate relief to the intense pain that can result from an infection in the pulp of the tooth. To understand how this works, we need to look a little closer at a tooth’s anatomy.

The hard outer surface of the tooth doesn’t have nerves, so it can’t “feel” any sensations. But deep inside of the tooth lies a bundle of nerves, blood vessels and connective tissue called the pulp. Safely sealed off from the outside world, pulp tissue is needed for proper tooth development, but has no essential function in adults. Sometimes, however, a deep cavity or a crack in the tooth allows bacteria to infect this soft tissue. That’s when the tooth’s pulp will let you know it’s still there — by causing the sensation of pain.

Pulp tissue fills a branching network of tiny canal-like passages, which can be compared to the roots of a plant. When infection develops in the root canals, the best treatment is to remove the diseased and dying tissue, clean out and disinfect the passageways, and seal up the area against further infection. This, in essence, is a root canal procedure. It is performed under local anesthesia, so you won’t feel any pain as it’s being done. When it’s over, a crown (cap) will be needed to restore the tooth’s appearance and function.

What happens if you need a root canal but don’t get one? If you can manage to ignore it, the pain may (or may not) eventually cease: This signals that the nerves have died — but the disease still persists. Eventually, it may lead to further infection… a pus-filled abscess… even tooth loss. And that’s a truly bad outcome.

It’s normal to feel a little apprehension before any medial procedure. But don’t let faded myths about the root canal procedure keep you from getting the treatment you need. Remember, root canal treatment doesn’t cause pain — it relieves it!

If you would like more information about root canal treatment, contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine articles “A Step-By-Step Guide To Root Canal Treatment” and “Tooth Pain? Don’t Wait!

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