person in a dental office holding their jaw in pain

What is a Root Canal?

Team Endodontics, Root Canal Treatment

The root canal has become a punchline of many jokes. You’ve probably heard someone compare it to extremely unpleasant activities. “I’d rather have a root canal,” people exclaim. But what exactly is a root canal? Is it as bad as people say?

A root canal is a fairly common dental procedure that helps restore a decayed tooth. Dentists use local anesthesia for root canals, so they shouldn’t be painful as the jokes suggest. Most importantly, patients leave with a healthier mouth and brighter smile. 

As with all medical and dental procedures, it’s important to know about a root canal before getting it done. Understanding how it’s done and how to take care of yourself after the procedure can help you prepare. 

When Are Root Canals Needed?

Many people think that teeth are hard all the way through. However, the hard part of the tooth is just in the outer and upper layers. Inside the tooth’s roots is the pulp, which is made of soft tissue. The pulp contains nerves, connective tissue, blood vessels, and more. 

Dentists perform root canals when there is damage, inflammation, or infection in the pulp of a tooth. There are several issues that can cause damage to the pulp, including but not limited to:

  • An untreated cavity 
  • Chips or cracks from physical damage to the tooth
  • Other mouth injuries, even without visible damage 

If you have a serious injury to your mouth, be sure to go to your dentist’s office as soon as possible. Treating cavities early can also help you prevent the need for a root canal.

Symptoms of Damaged Tooth Pulp

Only a trained professional can say whether the pulp of a tooth is damaged and needs a root canal. However, if you have the following symptoms, it might mean you need to see a dentist about possibly needing a root canal:

  • Severe pain around the tooth, especially while chewing
  • A chip or crack in any tooth
  • Bumps on the gums
  • Sensitivity to hot or cold, even after the trigger is gone
  • Darkening of the gums
  • Pain or tenderness in the gums

If you’re not sure, it’s best to see a dentist quickly. Decay can progress quickly.

Steps of a Root Canal

First, your dentist will apply a local anesthetic to numb the area. You may briefly experience a burning or pinching feeling when the anesthetic is injected, but you shouldn’t feel anything after that. Let your dentist know if you experience discomfort or pain. 

Then the dentist removes the damaged and decayed pulp from the tooth. They clean out all the pathways to make sure you do not have further damage. They then apply antibiotics to ensure any infection is gone. 

Next, the dentist fills the space where the pulp and seals the area. At this time, you will get a temporary filling that stops the tooth from becoming damaged again. 

A few days later, you will follow up with the dentist. They will perform an X-ray to make sure all of the infection is gone. If everything looks good, you’ll get a permanent filling. 

Root Canal in Fleming Island, FL

A root canal shouldn’t be the horrible experience that people talk about. We make sure to make our patients as comfortable as possible throughout the experience. If you need a root canal or any other restorative dentistry in Fleming Island, FL, call Doctors Lake Family Dental.