What to Expect During and After Your Appointment

“I’d rather have a root canal.” You’ve surely heard many people say this while they were describing something they would truly rather not do.

We will admit that there are several more pleasant activities than receiving root canal therapy. But do you know what’s truly worse than getting a root canal? The consequences that await if you don’t get one! And thanks to decades of advancements in dentistry, receiving a root canal is no longer nearly as uncomfortable as it once was.

We’re going to allay any fears you might have about root canal therapy by explaining what you can expect during and after a treatment which over 15 million people receive every year.

What Is a Root Canal?

Anatomically speaking, the root canal is the naturally occurring space within a tooth’s root. It is comprised of the pulp chamber, the main canal and accessory canals. The dental pulp housed within the root canal contains nerve tissue and blood vessels. It has four important functions:

  1. Create dentin (the substance which reinforces tooth enamel and provides structure to the tooth)
  2. Nourish dentin
  3. Innervate the tooth
  4. Defend the tooth

The phrase “root canal” is commonly used to refer to root canal therapy, a dental procedure which is also known as endodontic therapy or endodontic treatment. Root canal therapy has two purposes: to eliminate existing bacterial infection of the dental pulp, and to protect the same dental pulp against future bacterial infection.

The exact course of root canal therapy depends on the patient. In general the procedure entails removing infected dental pulp from the root canal, disinfecting the root canal, filling the root canal with an inert substance such as gutta-percha (a natural resinous compound derived from the tropical sapodilla tree), and finally sealing the treated tooth.

How Do You Know If You Need a Root Canal?

Several symptoms indicate that the dental pulp in one of your teeth could have become infected. These include:

  1. Lingering pain in the tooth
  2. Increased sensitivity to heat, cold or pressure
  3. Discoloration of the tooth
  4. Gum swelling around the tooth
  5. Chipped or cracked tooth
  6. Loose tooth

What Happens During a Root Canal?

Once your dentist (or endodontist) has detected an infection in your tooth’s root canal, they will request that you schedule one or two appointments. A single root canal treatment typically lasts 30 to 60 minutes (although it may take longer for a larger tooth or treatment for multiple infected roots).

First the dentist administers local anesthesia to numb the area surrounding the tooth. Once they have isolated the tooth with a rubber dam, they proceed to drill an opening into it. Next they remove any and all decay and bacteria within the tooth’s root canal with the use of small, specialized files.

A dentist may decide to let a week or two pass before completing the procedure. In that case, they will insert medicine into the tooth and temporarily seal it. Should the patient experience discomfort in the interim, it could indicate that further filing is required. 

When the dentist has confirmed that they have removed all infection from the tooth, they fill its canals with gutta-percha. Once the gutta-percha has hardened, the dentist can finally complete the root canal therapy by creating a regular filling.

What Should You Expect After a Root Canal?

The administration of local anesthetic makes root canal therapy just as comfortable as any other regular dental procedure, although patients typically note mild discomfort during the few days following the procedure. That soreness is easy to manage with the use of over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen, Advil or Alieve.

It is not uncommon for a tooth to become brittle following root canal therapy. In that event the dentist typically advises a crown, which will restore the tooth back to its original hardness.

When you receive root canal therapy, you can expect success! Over 97 percent of root canal treatments restore full functionality. But in the unlikely event that the procedure fails, retreatment is a viable option. Alternatively, the dentist and their patient may elect to address root canal therapy failure through apical surgery, wherein the tooth’s root tip and its surrounding tissue are removed in order to eliminate residual infection before it can spread further into the jawbone.

Are you experiencing the possible symptoms of root canal infection, and need a dentist in St. Cloud, Minnesota? Then we welcome you to contact Centrasota Dental today to schedule a consultation! Our prosthodontist Dr. Congdon and our team are always available to discuss our wide range of routine and cosmetic dental treatments.