What is a root canal?
A root canal is a procedure where the dental pulp is removed and replaced with a root filling. The dental pulp is the innermost layer of a tooth and is commonly referred to as the “nerve” of the tooth. This is the living part of the tooth where the nerves and blood vessels reside.
Why might I need a root canal?
The two most common indications for root canals are to alleviate tooth pain or to treat an infected tooth. Painful teeth can result when the nerve of a tooth is either infected or inflamed. Common symptoms that might indicate the need for a root canal include:
- Pain to chewing
- Cold or hot sensitivity
- Jaw pain
- Bad taste or odor in the mouth
- Swelling, fever, or other signs of infection
It is important to know as well that that not all affected teeth show symptoms right away. This means that it is possible to have an infected tooth that doesn’t hurt. The reason for this is that once the nerve of a tooth “dies” it is no longer able to send pain signals so previous pain may seem to improve. What then may happen is that the infection progresses which often leads to pain returning at a later date and potential spread of the infection.
A third possible situation where a root canal may be needed is to restore a badly broken tooth. In this situation, a root canal might be needed in order to offer support for a tooth restoration.
What are the benefits of having a root canal?
There are a number of benefits to root canal treatment, including:
- Relief of tooth pain
- Elimination of infection
- Preservation of natural teeth
- Restore the ability to chew on the affected tooth
Don’t root canals hurt?
This is a common misconception about root canals! Due to the improved effectiveness of modern numbing medications, root canal treatment is usually a comfortable and painless procedure. Current technologies in the way the tooth is prepared for the root canals also help in reducing the treatment time needed to complete this procedure.
Are there any alternatives to root canal treatment?
In most cases, the only alternative to root canal treatment is to extract the painful or infected tooth. There are situations however where this may actually be the better option. If the painful tooth is already weakened structurally or if there is active gum disease surrounding the tooth, the more predictable and stable option may be to remove and replace the tooth. If you are interested in learning more about options to replace missing teeth, visit our implant, bridge, or partial pages. A thorough evaluation and open discussion is crucial in determining the best treatment option, especially considering the irreversible nature of tooth extraction.
It is important to know that not every case of toothache or sensitivity needs a root canal. There are situations such as tooth grinding, a high “bite” on a filling or crown, gum recession, or tooth hypersensitivity that do not require a root canal to improve symptoms. An accurate diagnosis by a skilled dentist is crucial to determine the best course of action for each situation.
How do I know if root canal treatment is right for me?
Dr. Jason Doublestein, Dr. Michael Wierenga, and Dr. Katelyn Trierweiler along with our dedicated staff here at 44 West Dental Professionals are trained to consider each individual’s unique case and are happy to discuss if a root canal is the right treatment option for you. If you are in pain and think you might need a root canal, give us a call at (616) 530-2200 to set up an evaluation today.