Does the thought of a root canal make your knees buckle?

Once upon a time, root canal procedures were seen as highly painful surgeries performed on infected teeth in order to save them.

Nowadays, root canals are relatively pain-free! 

In fact, the most painful part of the whole ordeal is dealing with an infected tooth. A root canal is a simple surgery that can immediately alleviate that pain.

If you’re experiencing severe tooth pain, it’s best to get to a dentist right away! If they suggest a root canal, here’s everything you need to know:

What is a Root Canal?

A root canal is actually not a treatment per se – it’s a part of the tooth! It’s the hollow section that contains the nerve tissue, blood vessels, and cells known as “pulp”.

Your teeth also consist of areas known as the crown and the root. The crown appears above the gum whereas the roots exist below it and attach to the jawbone.

Inside the root canal, as we mentioned, is the pulp. The pulp nourishes the tooth and moisturizes the surrounding material.

The procedure we refer to as a “root canal” is actually a procedure called endodontic therapy. This dental surgery is performed by an oral surgeon or general dentist in order to remove infected pulp in the chambers of the tooth.

A root canal procedure can save an infected tooth or prepare the area for an implant if the tooth cannot be saved.

Despite popular belief, root canal procedures are not as painful as it sounds! In fact, the pain itself comes from the infection and not the treatment, which helps to alleviate the discomfort.

When is a Root Canal Needed?

A root canal is needed when there is an infection present in the tooth’s pulp. You’ll know you need this procedure if you experience the following symptoms:

Severe Pain

While any pain in your mouth should be examined by your dentist, spontaneous pain that hits you in waves can indicate an infected or dead tooth.

Pay attention to when the pain occurs. Are there certain positions in which the gums and tooth pain worsens? This can include when you lay down or bend.

If there is pressure on your tooth or face in these incidences, this may be root canal pain.

Bumps on Your Gums

The infection within the pulp of the root canal can cause bumps to form on your gums. These pimple-like spots are known as a “fistula”.

Swollen or Tender Gums

Swollen and/or tender gums can be a sign of an infected tooth. This is different than the inflammation experienced after flossing or brushing too hard.

Swollen gums are tender and painful to the touch and remain swollen over time. They can also be tender without touch.

Dark Gums

Dark gums are a sign of gum decay which can be caused by a dying tooth due to infection. If you notice that your gums are darkening, see a dentist right away!

Hot and Cold Sensitivity

Tooth sensitivity can be caused by a number of things including receding gums and weak enamel. However, if you need a root canal, the pain from hot and cold will linger long after eating or drinking.

A Cracked or Chipped Tooth

When you have a cracked or chipped tooth caused by trauma, all kinds of bacteria can get into the tooth pulp and cause an infection.

Otherwise, a tooth that is severely infected or decayed can become cracked or chipped as it dies. In this case, a root canal can save the remainder of the tooth.

An Abscess

An abscess is a hole in the jawbone caused by an infection that the bone cannot grow around. Your dentist can confirm if you have an abscess by taking x-rays during your appointment.

The Root Canal Procedure

treatment of root canals during endodontic treatment

Root canal procedures are performed in a dental office and are a fairly straightforward surgery:

Step 1: Anesthetic

The dentist will place numbing medication on your gum near the affected tooth before injecting a local anesthetic into the area. You may feel a sharp pinch but this will pass quickly and the area will become numb.

Your dentist may also offer mild sedation (not being “put to sleep”) to help you relax!

Step 2: Pulp Removal

Once your tooth is number, the dentist will make a small opening at the top of the tooth to expose the infected or damaged pulp. The infected pulp will then be carefully removed using special tools that will also clean out all the pathways in your tooth.

Step 3: Antibiotics

After the pulp has been removed, the dentist will coat the area with a topical antibiotic to make sure that the infection is completely cleared out. This helps prevent reinfection.

You may also be prescribed oral antibiotics following the procedure.

Step 4: Temporary Filling

The dentist then ends the root canal procedure by filling the small opening with a temporary material that will seal the canal and prevent damage by saliva.

Root Canal After-Care

Once the numbing medication wears off, you may feel soreness in your tooth and gums (which may also swell). 

You can treat these symptoms with over-the-counter medications such as Tylenol and Advil – but be sure to call your dentist if the pain becomes severe or lasts more than a few days.

You should avoid chewing with the damaged tooth until it’s permanently filled or a crown is placed over top, which will happen during your follow-up appointment with the dentist. 

While you should be able to return to your normal activities the day after your procedure, it may take a while to get used to how your tooth feels following the root canal. As long as there is no debilitating pain, this is completely normal.

A Root Canal Can Save Your Tooth!

If you are experiencing any signs that you need a root canal, don’t hesitate to contact Oxford Dental today!

Our family-friendly dental clinic in North Edmonton is ready to save your tooth and eliminate your tooth pain!

Call us today at 780-456-7009 or contact us through our website.