A root canal involves removing damaged or infected pulp from the center of a tooth. Once the pulp has been removed inside the tooth is cleaned and disinfected to remove any traces of bacteria or infection and a filling is created to seal off the tooth.
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How Long Does a Root Canal Take?
The length of time it will take your dentist to perform a root canal will vary depending on the size of the tooth being worked on and the number of roots the dentist is working with.
On the average tooth, you should be able to complete the procedure in an hour or less.
If the tooth is severely infected you may have to have two appointments before the work is completed.
How Can I be Sure I need a Root Canal?
The following symptoms are telltale signs that you are going to need either a root canal or an extraction. You also need to do regular dental checkups. Sometimes our teeth can be deteriorating and there could be a risk of severe infection or damage that we have not been aware of.
Signs to look for:
- Persistent pain, pain when you try to chew or when you touch the tooth
- Extreme sensitivity to hot or cold foods, drinks, or air
- The tooth is starting to discolor or turn grey
- Your gums are inflamed
- A tooth has been cracked or chipped
- The tooth is getting loose and you can move it a little. This is a sign of infection even if you are not experiencing pain or fever.
- A boil or pimple is located inside your mouth on your gums
- Pus or drainage is coming from one of your teeth
- You are having increased sinus problems
Myths about this Procedure
You have more than likely heard a horror story about a root canal from at least one person in your life. A lot of what you hear concerning this dental procedure is strictly myths that have been passed along. These myths will do nothing but scare you.
The Process is Very Painful
This may have been true 60 or more years ago. Today the dentist has the equipment and the medication to do a root canal that is basically pain-free. This procedure is supposed to relieve pain not create it.
Your Tooth Will be Killed and Turn Black
Root canals do not kill the tooth they are performed on. The pulp inside the tooth that is infected or damaged is removed but the roots of the tooth and the outer portion of the tooth are still alive and well.
Did you Know?
- 89% of the people who get a root canal are satisfied with the procedure.
- Over half of the root canals performed in the United States are done by endodontists.
- More than 41,000 of these procedures are done daily
What about crowns?
A crown is often placed over a tooth that has had a root canal performed. A crown is not always needed.
On the front teeth (the anterior teeth) your dentist may recommend a composite filling to make the tooth stronger and maintain the most aesthetically pleasing appearance of the tooth. After root canal work is done the tooth is not as strong as it was before it became infected. Crowns and fillings are used to ensure strength for the tooth so it does not chip or break.
The majority of the time a crown is recommended when the tooth you had the root canal performed on was one of your chewing teeth. Molars and bicuspids do the majority of the heavy chewing in the mouth so the crown is recommended to give the tooth more protection from damage.
What do I need to do before and after the procedure?
Before you go to your appointment your dentist will have given you instructions. Be sure that you follow your dentist’s instructions.
Some of the instructions may include:
- Do not smoke for several days prior to the appointment time.
- Take all medications the dentist has prescribed
- If you take blood thinners or some other medications your dentist may ask you to refrain from taking them for 12 hours prior to the procedure time
After the Procedure
- Do not smoke because smoking interferes with healing.
- If you were sedated you cannot drive home. If you had a local or nitrous oxide you will be fine to drive when you leave the office.
- Follow your dental care instructions and keep the number to your dentist close by in case of emergency
- Let the numbness wear off before you eat or drink
Root Canal Prevention Techniques
You can do things that will help to reduce the possibility that you will ever need a root canal.
Some of the best ways to prevent this kind of dental work are:
- Brushing your teeth twice each day. After you get up in the morning and after your last meal before you go to bed at night.
- Make certain that you floss once each day. This is best done in the evening before you go to bed so you can remove any small food particulates that might have lodged between your teeth during the day.
- Use products that contain fluoride. There are tubes of toothpaste and mouth rinses that include fluoride.
- Go to see your dentist regularly.
- Once a year schedule to have a professional cleaning.
- Reduce the amount of sugar you eat. Carbohydrat4es found in white bread, cakes, and crackers are as bad as white sugar. If you do eat a sweet or a carbohydrate rinse your mouth after so you can remove the sugary residue from your teeth.
A root canal is normally only done when there is an infection inside a tooth that is causing pain. If the infection is left untreated it will spread and it will do more damage to your mouth. The only other method of treating a tooth that needs a root canal is to extract the tooth. Do not let fear cause you to live in pain or lose your tooth.