There has been quite a bit of controversy over root canals over the last few years but today we are here to debunk the myths and give you the facts about what exactly goes into a root canal. The most common reason a root canal is needed is due to large areas of decay. There are several layers to your tooth structure: the enamel, underneath the enamel is the dentin, and underneath the dentin is the nerve of the tooth. When decay has extended through the dentin and into the nerve of the tooth the only way to save the tooth is with a root canal. Some other reasons that a root canal may be recommended is due to infection, a crack in the tooth, unexplained hot and cold sensitivity that does not go away on its own, or trauma to the tooth.
So you may be wondering what exactly is a root canal. When you have deep decay, or an infected nerve in your tooth the best way to save that tooth is to remove the infected nerve, disinfect the nerve chamber, and then seal it up so that no bacteria is able to get inside of the nerve chambers again. An endodontist is dentist that has specialized in performing root canals and can usually complete them in an appointment that takes approximately 1-2 hours. The procedure feels the same as if you were receiving a filling. Once the tooth is numbed they proceed to clean out any decay if present, and then move on to cleaning out the pulp chamber using special files. It is important that they remove all chambers otherwise you risk the tooth getting re-infected at some point. Once all the pulp has been removed they will place an anti microbial solution to treat or prevent infection. The next step is to
fill the empty nerve chambers with a solution called gutta percha. This is a soft material that fills and seals all the empty spaces to prevent re-infection of the tooth. On top of the gutta percha they will place a temporary filling until you can see your regular dentist to place a permanent crown.
Crowns are almost always recommended after a root canal procedure, especially if it is a back tooth. This is because the tooth no longer has its own blood supply inside of it so over time the outside structure of the tooth will become brittle. Since we use our back teeth for chewing leaving a root canaled tooth without a permanent crown you will increase your risk of the tooth fracturing, and this often times will leave you with your only option being to extract the tooth.
Myths that root canals are extremely painful are simply not true. Often times people are already in pain when they go to have the procedure performed, but the procedure itself is not any more painful than having a filling placed. Another common myth is that they take several days of procedure to be completed. The majority of root canals can be performed in one office visit that takes about 1-2 hours. Sometimes if the infection is very severe you may have to go back for a second visit but that is relatively uncommon. The third very common myth is it is easier to just pull your tooth instead of getting a root canal. Saving your natural teeth is always going to be the best and most preferred option. Often times having a tooth pulled can lead to other problems for surrounding teeth if it is not replaced. Options for replacing the missing teeth are generally more invasive than having a root canal performed.
The general consensus is that root canals are an incredibly effective way to keep your natural tooth for as long as possible. Root canaled teeth have an
incredibly high success rate and can even last a lifetime. There is no need to be fearful of having one performed they are relatively quick and painless!