Whenever patients hear the words “root canal” they all do the same thing: cringe. Every time I talk to patients about the procedure I first have to talk them off of a ledge. Each of them has heard a terrible story about someone, someplace, that had the worst experience with their root canal procedure and that they would not wish their worst enemy to need one.
Why is this the case? Well, in some circumstances root canals CAN cause pain. These are the stories that we hear about. If a patient has not been going into the dentist regularly for their checkups, cleanings, and x-rays, bacteria can start to grow and they would not be aware of it. In dentistry there are many things that can start to brew that do not cause pain. This is why your dentist and dental hygienist are tough on you so that if something starts brewing we can catch it before any pain starts and avoid it altogether when possible.
The pain associated with root canal treatment is due to bacteria that has grown so large it started an infection in the tooth, the gums, and the jaw bone that holds the teeth in place. If you have pain you should seek attention from your dentist immediately so that they can do any emergency treatment and prescribe an antibiotic if needed.
How Do I Know If I Need a Root Canal?
There are some indicators that a root canal is needed. Sometimes there is pain and sometimes there is not. Below I will list some signs that a root canal is needed:
-Pain upon chewing
-Sensitivity to cold or hot temperature changes
-The color of the tooth begins to get darker and look grey
-The gums near a tooth begins to get puffy and swollen
-A pimple develops on the gum tissue near a tooth
-A tooth is cracked in your mouth
Although patients often associate root canal treatment with pain, most patients, when they have a root canal done correctly and are given antibiotics when needed, equate the pain with the same as after a regular dental filling. That is what a root canal essentially is, a filling. The difference between the root canal filling and a regular filling is that the root canal filling goes into the roots of the teeth, which are below the gum line. A traditional filling goes into the crown of the teeth, the part that we see above the gum line.
What Happens After a Root Canal?
What happens after a root canal is performed depends on which tooth had the work done. For front teeth, often only a regular filling is needed. For back teeth, since they bear the brunt of the forces while chewing, a dental crown is needed in order to protect the teeth long term. After the permanent filling or crown is done, the tooth will start to eventually feel like one of your own and you will brush and floss it as you do all the others.
Who Performs My Root Canal?
This will also depend on which tooth needs the procedure and the level of training of your general dentist. General dentists can complete some or all root canals, depending on their level of confidence and training in the field of endodontics, which is the term for root canal specialty. There is a specialist, an endodontist, that studies root canals in addition to going to dental school. After a residency program in root canals, the endodontist only does root canals and is very highly trained in the practice.
If you think you need a root canal or want to come in and see us for a free consultation about other dental concerns, call us at 215.568.6222 to schedule one today. Dr. Cirka, Dr. Mimi Jeon, or Dr. Stephanie Smith will do a comprehensive examination of your teeth and your gums as well as take cavity detection x-rays of your teeth. You will also receive a complimentary oral cancer screening in the examination. We look forward to meeting you soon!