Managing Wellness

Demystifying the Root Canal

Posted by September 6, 2016

Did you know that 67 percent of Americans report that fear of pain is their biggest concern when it comes to root canal treatments? Root canals have a bad reputation, but there’s no reason to be scared of these routine procedures. While it’s true that, in decades past, root canals could be painful experiences, thanks to modern advances in dental technologies and anesthetics, this is no longer the case.

When Are Root Canals Necessary?

A root canal is performed when the pulp (the tissue inside your teeth that contains the nerves and blood vessels) becomes inflamed or infected. Infected or inflamed pulp can be caused by large cavities or cracks or breaks in the affected tooth, explains the American Dental Association. Injuries to the teeth that don’t leave visible chips or cracks may also damage the pulp and necessitate this treatment.

Are Root Canals Painful?

Fortunately, it’s now a myth that root canals are painful. The American Association of Endodontists explains that getting a root canal isn’t any more painful than getting a cavity filled. So there’s no reason to be scared if your dentist says you need this treatment.

In fact, the painful part comes before the treatment: Infected or inflamed pulp can give you a severe toothache. Once the diseased pulp has been removed, your pain will be relieved, and you’ll be glad you had the root canal performed.

What Happens During the Procedure?

Root canals are simple, routine procedures. First, your dentist will numb the area around the tooth by injecting a local anesthetic. Once the medication has taken effect, your dentist will make an opening in the top of your tooth so that he can access the pulp. He will then use surgical tools, known as files, to remove the pulp.

Once the pulp has been removed, the pulp chamber and root canals will be cleaned out. Your dentist will then fill the root canals with gutta-percha, a rubber-like material that replaces the pulp in the tooth. Next, he will seal the top of your tooth with a temporary filling. You’ll return to your dentist later to have a crown or permanent filling placed to permanently restore your tooth’s function.

If you’re very anxious about the procedure, tell your dentist. Dentists can prescribe a sedative to help calm your nerves and make you feel more relaxed during the treatment. As many as 25 percent of Americans have a dental phobia, so there’s no need to feel embarrassed about discussing your anxiety with your dentist.

What Happens If a Root Canal Isn’t Performed?

If this treatment is needed but not performed, the problem won’t go away on its own. The infection within the tooth can spread to other areas of the body, leading to further pain. The infected tooth may even need to be extracted. In the workplace, these complications can lead to decreased productivity and lost work days.

To avoid complications, root canals need to be performed quickly. If one of your employees is complaining of a toothache, encourage them to visit a dentist immediately for treatment. Most people are able to go back to work the day after the procedure, according to the National Institutes of Health, so you won’t be without the employee for long.

These days, there’s no reason to be scared of root canals. Modern root canals are simple, routine procedures that can relieve pain and prevent further damage and complications.

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