For a very long time, root canals have been the most feared procedure that you can endure when you go to a dental office. They have never been that truly painful; they simply play into many of the anxieties that people share about dentistry and surgery. However, with new anesthetics, new tools, and new procedures, modern root canals are incredibly simple. The dentists can now minimize your discomfort and get you back home as quickly as possible.
The Procedure Itself
A root canal procedure is called that because it is a surgery on the root canal in your gums. Your teeth have roots that reach into the gum; that root travels through a canal. If some piece of food or bacteria gets into the canal, it can infect the canal. That will lead to inflammation, swelling, and pain. Typically, a procedure will involve drilling into the tooth and removing the infected tissue.
It’s that simple. Many dentists will ask that you come back in a week or two to have the drilled hole filled and capped. The wait is to make sure that the infection does not return. Most people say that a root canal is no more painful than having a filling placed.
If you’re still not convinced, you might seek alternatives. The only reliable alternative to a root canal procedure is to have the entire tooth pulled. Then you’ll need a bridge or a partial denture. That procedure will require a longer recovery time, and you’ll spend more money. A tooth extraction is likely going to be more painful as well.
The best medicine is prevention, though. If you practice good dental hygiene and visit a dentist every six months or so, you likely will be able to avoid an infected tooth.
There are some signs that you need a root canal. Typically, the main sign will be strong pain in your tooth and gums. You’ll also likely notice redness, puffiness, and tenderness. You’ll also likely have heightened sensitivity to hot or cold food and drink. If those last for more than about 12 hours, you need to call a dentist. If they’ve lasted all day, they are likely only going to get worse.
A good dentist will listen to your concerns and do everything possible to ease your anxiety. Most dental anxiety is misplaced, and the relief you feel will more than make up for any temporary pain.