If you’re like most people, you’ve probably heard the jokes and urban legends about the horrors of root canal therapy. In fact, root canals have become a standard analogy for the most painful and traumatic situations imaginable. If most people are to be believed, they’d rather endure just about anything before undergoing a root canal.
But if you’ve never had a root canal, the truth might actually surprise you. In fact, not only is root canal therapy not painful or traumatic, but it’s actually not that different from getting a filling for a cavity in terms of the pain and discomfort you can expect. At Dental Town DC, our dentists offer gentle and compassionate care for your cosmetic dental and oral health care needs at our Washington, DC, office.
Misconceptions about root canal therapy
The biggest misconception about a root canal is probably that it’s a really painful procedure. Now that we’ve debunked that myth, let’s move on to the next one: that it’s better to have a damaged or decayed tooth extracted than to get a root canal.
According to the American Association of Endodontists, removing a natural tooth should always be a last resort. Along with the extra dental work (and expense) that goes along with replacing a missing tooth once it’s extracted, missing teeth can lead to additional oral health problems like bone loss, which can increase your risk of periodontal (gum) disease and affect the surrounding teeth.
The truth about root canal therapy
Every tooth has an internal network of blood vessels, nerves, and soft tissue known as pulp. When bacteria gets inside a tooth due to an injury or severe tooth decay, it can lead to inflammation and infection. If left untreated, you can end up with permanent nerve damage and other complications.
Signs you may need a root canal
A dental exam is necessary to determine whether you’ll need a root canal, but some of the symptoms include:
- Pain (especially when chewing or biting down on something)
- Ongoing sensitivity to hot and cold
- Red and swollen gums around the tooth
- A brown or dark spot on the tooth
If you’re experiencing pain or any of these symptoms, schedule an appointment for a dental exam as soon as possible.
How the procedure works
As with a dental filling, the dentist will apply a topical anesthetic to numb the area and minimize the pressure and discomfort you will feel during the procedure. Next, they’ll drill a small hole in the tooth and remove the damaged pulp tissue and bacteria, cleaning the tooth from the inside out.
Once the canal has been cleaned out, the dentist will fill and seal the tooth. A typical appointment can about an hour to 90 minutes, with one or two appointments depending on the extent of the damage and the necessary follow-up.
Depending on the extent of the damage and the amount of tissue removed, an additional restoration like a dental crown, filling, or veneer may be necessary to complete the procedure and protect the tooth from further damage.
Protect your smile and oral health
Don’t let fear and misconceptions keep you from getting the dental care you need. For more information about how root canals really work and how they can save your smile and oral health, contact Dental Town DC today to schedule an appointment with one of our dentists, or book an appointment online.