A root canal is a treatment that is used to repair the pulp of an infected tooth. When a cavity reaches far into the tooth and starts to affect the pulp it can become infected and this can lead to serious toothaches and even worse, infections. If left untreated infected pulp can lead to an infected jaw and even a brain infection. During a root canal the pulp is removed and replaced with a filling. Root canals were painful procedures in the past because anesthesia wasn’t uses, but today all you can expect is mild discomfort.
During a root canal the dentist will numb the area around the tooth and then make a small opening so that he can reach the pulp. Using special equipment he will then remove all the infected pulp, after which he will clean the resulting hole and sterilize it to prepare it for the filling. The filling is put in for several purposes – it covers exposed nerves that can be very painful if left in the open, it maintains the integrity of the tooth and it stops any further damage from taking place – bacteria can no longer get in there and cause infection. A crown is then placed on top of the tooth. It looks like your teeth so no one can tell that you have had a root canal done.
If you are anxious about having a root canal done it is very normal – plenty of people are fearful of dental procedures. You should not shy away from having it done. Instead, discuss with your dentist what options are available to calm you down. He can issue an anesthetic that numbs the pain as well as reduces your anxiety levels. Some of these are taken the night before the procedure so you may need someone to drive you to the dentist. It is recommended that after the root canal you also have someone drive you home as you will still be under the effects of the anesthetic.
You may feel a bit sore after your root canal procedure but this is completely normal – your dentist will prescribe painkillers and antibiotics to make sure that you don’t develop an infection. You are supposed to eat only soft foods while the root canal is healing. Your dentist will give you an appointment so that he can check whether everything is alright. You should maintain good oral hygiene to prevent the development of further cavities that may require root canals. You should also see your dentist on a regular basis – he will examine your crown to make sure that everything is as it should be. Avoid eating hard foods as they can cause your crown to chip or crack. Stay away from sugary foods and drinks too – they cause tooth decay.
That said, root canals are almost always a successful procedure so there is nothing for you to worry about. Do not, however, use just any dentist. Look for one who has experience with root canals if you want everything to go smoothly.