Hearing that you need a root canal from your Erie dentist can certainly cause a lot of people to panic. After all, few dental treatments carry the reputation for causing as much discomfort as the dreaded root canal. However, just as seaweed tastes better than you’d think (trust us), a root canal is nowhere near as painful as you have been led to believe. In fact, a root canal can actually save the life of a tooth.
To help provide you with a little peace of mind should your Erie dentist say you need a root canal, here are a few important facts about the procedure.
What is a root canal?
Root canal therapy is an advanced treatment used by dentists to save and repair a tooth that has become infected or badly decayed.
Tooth enamel – the hard outer surface of our teeth – protects the delicate interior known as the root and pulp. When the pulp of the tooth become infected by harmful oral bacteria or the structure of a tooth becomes badly damaged by the effects of tooth decay, the overall health of the tooth becomes at risk.
Much like when a termite infestation threatens the structural integrity of a house, when damage occurs to the pulp and roots of a tooth, it threatens to collapse the entire structure. While you tooth won’t fall down, it could eventually fall out if the roots of a tooth complete fail. To prevent the loss of a tooth and any further damage from occurring, a root canal is performed.
During a root canal treatment, the pulp of the tooth is removed, and the inside is completely cleaned out. This leaves behind the hollow structure of your tooth. Just like your house can’t stand without a foundation, your tooth cannot survive without something to support it from within.
Once the pulp has been removed and the cavity of the tooth cleaned, the tooth is then filled and sealed. This restores the form and function back to a tooth that would have been lost should the internal decay have been allowed to continue.
Why do root canals carry the reputation as being painful?
People fear hearing the dreaded news from their Erie dentist they need a root canal because they think the procedure is painful. In reality, most patients who undergo a root canal report that they experience no more discomfort than if receiving a filling.
So why the unfortunate rep?
Well, most people associate the pain they experience before their treatment with the treatment itself. When the interior of a tooth is badly affected by decay and rot, a patient can experience a great deal of discomfort.
The thought line then generally goes something like this: I’m in pain and need a root canal, so therefore a root canal must be painful.
In reality, however, a root canal actually provides a great deal of relief, as it helps to treat the underlying problem that has been causing a patient discomfort to begin with. Rather than being an instrument of torture many people believe a root canal to be, the treatment actually offers a great deal of relief, while also saving the long-term health of a tooth.
What is dental pulp?
The pulp is the soft center of a tooth that contains the blood vessels, nerves and connective tissue that keeps a tooth healthy and alive. While these items sound important – and they are during the formation of our teeth during childhood – they lose a lot of practical function later in life. In fact, the nerves of our teeth only really function to allow us to feel hot or cold stimuli when we eat or drink. A tooth’s ability to survive without these interior components makes root canal therapy possible.
Why does the pulp need to be removed?
When the pulp of a tooth becomes damaged, it begins to breakdown, and the harmful bacteria within the cavity of the tooth begins to multiply. The dying material can then cause an infection or abscessed tooth to develop. An abscess is a pus-filled pocket that forms at the end of the roots of a tooth. In addition to causing an abscess, an infection can also cause:
- Swelling that can spread to other areas of the face, head or neck.
- Bone loss around the tip of the root.
- Drainage problems where the pus from an abscess can move through a hole in a tooth into the cheek or gum tissue.
All of these symptoms sound incredibly unpleasant, which is one of the reasons a root canal can offer relief. So if you hear from your Erie dentist you need a root canal, don’t panic. Take comfort in knowing that soon you’ll start to feel much better, and that the long-term health of your smile is secure.