Root canals are among the most feared and dreaded procedures in dentistry, if not in all of medicine. You may be nervous if your dentist has told you that you need a root canal. You may even be so afraid of being told you need a root canal that you avoid seeing your dentist – which, of course, leads to much more serious tooth problems such as advanced decay and infection.
The good news about root canals is that they are probably nowhere near as bad as you think. These are eight facts you need to know about root canals to calm your nerves and get ready for your dental appointment.
1. A root canal can relieve pain.
Some patients fear that a root canal will lead to pain. The truth is that it often relieves it. Root canals are necessary when the tooth’s nerve and the pulp within the tooth get inflamed and infected. A root canal is a procedure to clean out the infected pulp and kill the tooth nerves so they are no longer irritated. If you need a root canal, you may have a toothache, which is worse when you chew on the area. Other signs include extreme sensitivity to cold or hot food and drink and a darkening of the tooth.
2. You may have no symptoms that you need one.
If you have deep decay and your dentist is planning to give you a crown, you may find out during the cleaning that you need a root canal even if you did not have any pain or visible irritation in the area. Your root canal specialist may see exposed nerve ends and decide that a root canal is a good precautionary measure before placing a crown so the nerve ends are not at risk for becoming painful in the future.
3. A root canal is far less uncomfortable than you probably think.
A root canal is rarely painful. It feels very much like getting a regular filling or crown. With local anesthetic, you will hardly feel anything.
4. It takes a while to remove the pulp.
Cleaning out the tooth during a root canal takes so much longer than cleaning out the tooth for a filling because your dentist needs to carefully remove the infected pulp from the tooth. This is a slow and careful process.
5. The rubber is necessary.
Your dentist may place a rubber dam in your mouth, which can be a little uncomfortable. Still, the dam is necessary. It prevents you from swallowing the chemicals used to kill off your nerve endings.
6. A root canal is often the healthiest option.
A root canal may seem like a drastic and costly measure, but it is actually the more conservative approach in many cases. Getting a root canal and then a crown, crown and post, or other restoration allows the biggest possible amount of your natural tooth to be saved. If you opt to forego a root canal, the alternative is a tooth extraction and replacement with a bridge or implant. These choices not only get rid of your natural tooth, but also can be cost prohibitive.
7. The cost of a root canal varies.
The amount your root canal specialist charges for the root canal depends in part on where the tooth is located. A root canal on a front tooth is likely to cost less than a root canal on a molar. Insurance plans often assist with the cost of a root canal. If you do not have insurance, your dentist may be able to give you a special rate.
8. You may be a little sore afterwards.
The root canal procedure deadens the endings of the tooth’s nerve so you will no longer have the toothache you had before, but you can still feel soreness in the area if your gums or nearby tissues are inflamed. Your root canal specialist may recommend an over-the-counter pain reliever and anti-inflammatory such as ibuprofen.
Root canals may have a reputation of being dreadful procedures, but they really are not that bad. Your root canal specialist can perform the procedure with minimal pain or discomfort, and the result can be relief of pain and healthier teeth now and in the long run.