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The Root Canal Experience in Detail

Don’t believe the stereotype of popular culture that refers to a “root canal” like it’s the ultimate painful experience. Performed by a specialist, it is just the opposite, a painless way to end dental pain.

A painful tooth could start with a cavity, but it could also be due to an accident, infection, or dead tooth nerve. Signs of deeper trouble in the root might include the sensitivity of the tooth to hot or cold, a persistent toothache, pain when you chew on the tooth, or tenderness of the gums around it. Your general dentist will usually do the initial diagnosis of the problem and if it appears to be infection inside the tooth, she or he should refer you to an endodontist (a mouthful that means a highly-trained expert in going to the root of the pain).

The outer shell of a tooth is the hard enamel, all we can see. But underneath is the dentin, which surrounds and protects an inner layer of soft tissue known as the pulp, which consists of blood vessels, nerves, and connective tissue. The pulp provides nourishment through its canals or roots to the tooth while it is growing, but these hollow channels can get infected when they longer have that function.

Step 1: The area receives a topical anesthetic to make it numb enough so that you will not feel the anesthetic injection that follows (there is also the option of breathing nitrous oxide to help relax).

Step 2: A dental “dam” (a thin sheet of rubber or vinyl) is placed over the area to keep it sterile, with the infected tooth poking through.

Step 3:A small hole is drilled into the tooth, to provide access to the pulp and root canals for treatment.

Step 4: Special instruments are used to remove the dead or dying pulp, stopping the pain.

Step 5: The canals are disinfected with special solutions.

Step 6: They are then shaped so that they can be filled with materials to prevent future infection.

Step 7: A plastic material usually is used to fill the space. If the tooth structure seems weak, a post may be placed inside, as well. The canal is then sealed.

Step 8: The access hole that was drilled is filled and the dental dam removed.

Step 9: An antibiotic will be prescribed. If over-the-counter medications for the usual mild soreness do not seem adequate, a codeine-type drug might be prescribed, as well.

Final Optional Step: A crown, which looks like an artificial tooth, may later be placed on top of the natural tooth to protect it and restore functionality.

 If you are in serious tooth pain call today to have its root cause diagnosed and treated.

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