Root Canal Therapy and How it Helps Reduce Pain
Everyone dreads hearing the words “root canal.” Root canals have gained a reputation for being a painful, unpleasant procedure. However, these days, a root canal can be performed without too much discomfort. There may be things you’d rather do with your afternoon than get a root canal, but the truth is that a root canal will help relieve tooth pain and avoid more procedures down the road.
What is a Root Canal?
When a tooth becomes very decayed or infected, a root canal might be in order. Root canal procedures are performed in order to save a tooth when the pulp of the tooth becomes damaged or the nerve is infected. Pulp is the soft area inside the center of the tooth, in which the nerve resides. While the nerve is important to the tooth while it is growing and emerging from the gums, it is not actually needed during most of the life of the tooth. After the tooth has matured, the nerve’s only function is to provide sensory feedback. During a root canal, the pulp and nerve in the tooth is completely removed, and the tooth is sealed up completely.
Signs that a Root Canal is Needed
An infected root or nerve can cause painful symptoms. Swelling near the gums can spread to other areas of the face or neck, or an abscess can form near the gumline. Most commonly, patients will be experiencing a prolonged or severe toothache that is worsened by pressure on the tooth. The tooth may become discolored, or more sensitive than usual to heat or cold. Occasionally, no symptoms are present, but a dentist may notice a problem on a routine X-ray.
Is a Root Canal Painful?
Contrary to popular belief, a root canal procedure is not very painful. Most patients who have received root canal procedures have reported that it is no more painful than having a filling done. As when getting a filling, the dentist will be sure to numb the area before proceeding to remove the infected tissue and seal the tooth. After the procedure, there is no nerve left in the tooth to cause pain. There may be some residual tenderness in the gums, especially if there was an infection originally causing the problem. Most dentists will prescribe painkillers to be taken as needed after the procedure to reduce pain as the swelling subsists.
When to See the Dentist
A good rule of thumb is to schedule a dentist appointment right away if you notice any unusual symptoms or pain. More specifically, if the pain is accompanied by swelling or if you have other symptoms such as a fever or headache, these may be indications of an infection that should be treated immediately. The dentists at California Dental Group can evaluate your situation and advise whether a root canal procedure is right for you.