Dolton dentist explains how root canals are used to treat tooth infections, decay, and other issues
Everyone is familiar with the groans that the phrase “root canal” can elicit in conversation and the lore that surrounds this procedure. At our Dolton, IL dental practice, we’ve heard it all! The truth is, root canal therapy can be a nearly painless procedure that saves your natural tooth and is much more preferable than the alternative—tooth extraction—in terms of pain, restoration cost, and long-term oral health. Dr. Dean Dietrich and the team at Pleasant Dental® are experts at identifying how to treat issues such as tooth infections, decay, and trauma and when a root canal is necessary, take steps to make the procedure virtually pain-free.
What is a root canal?
Also called “endodontic therapy,” a root canal procedure treats the inside of the tooth. A normal tooth contains an outer layer of enamel, under which is a layer of dentin. Beneath the dentin is the pulp chamber, which contains a soft tissue called pulp, nerves, and blood vessels. These structures go all the way down to the tip of the tooth root in what is called the root canal.
In a root canal treatment, the dentist removes the infected or inflamed pulp and the nerves that are causing pain. Then, Dr. Dietrich carefully cleans and sanitizes the inner chamber, shapes it, and fills it with a material called gutta-percha. After the treatment is complete, you will likely need either a filling or a crown placed on top of the tooth to protect it from future damage.
When may a root canal be needed?
Endodontic therapy is usually needed when the pulp becomes infected, damaged, or inflamed. This can be caused by a number of things:
- Repeated dental procedures on the same tooth
- Deep decay in the tooth
- Traumatic injury to the tooth – sometimes, injuries from a long time ago can resurface many years later
- Crack or chip in the tooth
When the pulp is infected or damaged, it can cause intense pain or sensitivity, tenderness, discoloration, and swelling. It can also lead to the formation of an abscess.
Isn’t it easier to just extract the tooth?
No! In almost all cases, it is better to save your natural tooth whenever possible, and a root canal can do just that. When you have to extract a tooth, it can be much more painful with a longer recovery period. A root canal can provide immense relief from the pain you are experiencing shortly after the procedure is complete. In addition, the time and money that it takes to replace an extracted tooth can really add up to more than the cost of root canal treatment. Even though the cost of a root canal may seem higher up front when you add in the number of treatments, you’ll need over the course of your life for the missing tooth replacement, the root canal wins out. And while dental technologies have come a long way, a tooth restoration is never as good as a natural tooth in terms of look, feel, and function, so if you can save the natural tooth with a root canal, we recommend it.
How do you make the procedure painless?
Your comfort is a top priority for us! A little-known fact is that root canals may cause pain when the tooth has an active infection—a common occurrence in teeth in need of root canals—which makes it nearly impossible to fully numb the tooth prior to the procedure. Because of this, at Pleasant Dental®, we often have patients start antibiotics before their root canal to get the infection under control. Once that happens, we can fully numb the tooth and you typically feel no pain during the root canal procedure.
Does it hurt afterwards?
You may feel some sensitivity in the treated tooth for a few days after the procedure. Some patients experience only a dull ache, whereas the pain may be more acute for others, but usually an over-the-counter painkiller is sufficient to manage it. For many patients, the mild pain after treatment is much more tolerable than the pain they were in before.
Suffering from a painful tooth? Call us today!
If you have been suffering from a painful tooth but have been putting off going to the dentist for fear of the treatment to fix it, there is no need to wait any longer. At Pleasant Dental®, you’ll find friendly, compassionate care that is thorough and focused on not only treating your dental issue but also your comfort. Call our Dolton, IL office to schedule an appointment today at (708) 576-1900.