I don’t know about you, but trips to my dentist were some of my worst childhood memories, particularly those visits that involved a drill. I clearly remember sitting in the chair, every muscle in my body tensed to the max, waiting for any sign of pain, and my next shot of Novacain.
Fortunately, advancements in Dental Science and techniques have significantly reduced the discomfort of dental work. Now appointments with my dentist are merely an inconvenience. Even the dreaded Root Canal wasn’t the nightmare I’d expected.
What to Expect
If you’ve been experiencing persistent pain when pressure is applied to your tooth, it may be time to quit “toughing it out” and make an appointment with your family dentist.
In my case, even the slightest pressure on my tooth caused me discomfort, and the pain was getting progressively worse. Through x-rays and an examination of the tooth, my dentist was able to diagnose my problem and recommend a course of action. He told me more than likely I would need a Root Canal, and he referred me to an Endodontist, who specializes in these procedures. To say I was uneasy was an understatement, so I decided to do some research prior to my appointment. Here is what I discovered along the way to a successful root canal procedure.
Tooth Design – Each tooth has one or more roots that anchor it to the gum. Each root has a canal in its center, and within the canal is the tooth’s nerve, which senses pressure. If there’s a crack in the tooth enamel or filling, the canal can become infected, which may lead to an infected tooth. If the infection gets worse, and it isn’t treated, both the tooth and the root may need to be removed. A root canal procedure can save the tooth and avoid the need for a dental replacement.
Signs a Root Canal May be Necessary – The most obvious sign that a root canal procedure may be needed is severe pain when chewing or when pressure is applied to the tooth. Other signs are:
- Sensitivity to hot or cold temperature long after the cold or hot food or drink have been removed from the affected area,
- Discoloration of the tooth,
- Swelling and tenderness in nearby gums, and
- Recurring pimples on the gums.
The Procedure – The first step of a Root Canal surgery is the application of a local anesthetic around the affected tooth. When the area is numb, the part of the enamel or filling that covers the canal is removed. Then, the root nerve is removed, the canal is cleaned to remove any infection, the canal is sterilized and sealed to prevent any future infection, and the tooth is filled to replace the enamel that previously covered the root. Finally, a crown is attached over the tooth and filling to provide a protective biting surface. Although this tooth repair can be costly, it is less expensive than the alternative – tooth extraction and dental implants. You’d also have the added bonus of not having extra hardware in your mouth, which might be necessary if the tooth were removed.
The Pain – My pain threshold is fairly low, so one of my concerns, besides my fear that the procedure, itself, was going to be painful, was that I would no longer have the sensitivity I needed when my tooth’s nerve was removed. I was assured the nerve wouldn’t be missed, and that losing it was a minor trade-off, since I’d still have my tooth. Besides, in my particular case, I had healthy teeth on both sides of the affected tooth, so they would provide the bite-pressure feedback I’d need. My upper molar Root Canal operation took about 45 minutes, and the pain was comparable to that of getting a tooth filled.
The complexity and length of the procedure will, of course, depend on the extent of the damage to your tooth. So, by catching your problem early, and taking the necessary actions to get your issue resolved, complications and discomfort should be minimal. I can say from personal experience, my apprehension was far worse than the actual root canal procedure.