Most who have undergone root canal therapy will tell you that it isn’t the procedure itself that is painful; it’s the lead-up to visiting the dentist. Root canal therapy is about bringing relief to patients. More importantly, root canal therapy (pulpectomy) eliminates the infection that is causing the pain in the first place, all while working to save the structure of the tooth.
When the pulp and nerves of a tooth become ravaged by decay or bacterial infection, root canal therapy may be the only option saving the tooth and eliminating the pain. Here are some common instances in which root canal therapy is recommended:
Stop an infection. When the pulp of the tooth becomes infection, patients usually have two treatment options: an extraction or root canal therapy.
Save a tooth. The main purpose of root canal therapy is to remove the bacterial infection and save the tooth.
Prevent teeth from drifting out of place. Some are under the impression that removing a tooth is the best way to eliminate a painful infection. But, extractions (without further treatment) will likely cause the adjacent teeth to drift out of place, causing additional harm to your oral health.
Reduce and eliminate pain. Most patients will say that the most painful part of root canal therapy isn't the procedure itself, it's living with an infected tooth in the lead up to therapy.
The inner part of the tooth is known as the "pulp." The pulp contains all the nerves and blood vessels that are necessary to keep the tooth healthy. The most common symptom of a tooth abscess or pulpitis is a throbbing pain in the tooth that may radiate to other areas of the face and neck.
Sensitivity. When the pulp of the tooth is infected there will be a heightened sensitivity to hot and cold foods, as well as pressure from biting or chewing.
Swelling in the face and/or neck. As part of the body's immune response to the infection, you may experience swelling and tenderness to the cheeks, face, jaws, neck, and lymph nodes.
Pulpitis is an inflammation of the pulp of the tooth, typically caused by the presence of bacteria.
Tooth abscesses are caused by bacterial infection. An abscess causes a pocket of pus to form on various parts of the tooth, typically around the root.
For pulpitis to form, an infection doesn't need to be present. But, most cases of pulpitis follow an infection.
Root canal therapy usually requires one or two appointments. During root canal therapy, the tooth is anesthetized (numbed) and encased in a rubber dam (rubber sheet) to keep out saliva and bacteria. An access hole is then drilled into the top of the tooth. The dentist (or endodontist) will then use a series of dental files to remove the infected pulp and nerve tissue of the tooth.
To prevent future infection, the cavity is thoroughly sterilized and the tooth is sealed. In most root canal therapy procedures, a crown is placed on top of the tooth to help it retain its strength and prevent future infection.
Following the treatment, you may experience some sensitivity, swelling, and discomfort around the surrounding tissues. These symptoms should subside in several days or weeks. After root canal therapy, proper oral hygiene practices should be followed in order to ensure the longevity of the treatment. Patients should also attend regular checkups with the dentist.
Many patients have the mistaken belief that the only way to eliminate pain caused by a pulp, root, or nerve infection is to remove the tooth. But, root canal therapy is just as effective as an extraction and it also allows the patient to keep the tooth. Tooth extractions can cause adjacent teeth to drift out of place and cause the jaw bone to lose bone material in a process known as resorption. This can lead to patient's having an older appearance by giving their mouth a sunken in appearance.
Following your root canal therapy, you will need to follow some general guidelines in order to maintain your oral health.
It will take several hours for the local anesthetic to wear off. This means that your mouth will be completely numb. To prevent accidentally biting your tongue or burning your mouth, we recommend avoiding hot drinks and chewing food or gum until the anesthetic has completely worn off (typically within 1 or 2 hours).
If your root canal is a two-appointment procedure, then you will be fitted with a temporary filling. You may notice that pieces of the filling will chip away. This is to be expected. But, if the filling becomes completely dislodged then you should contact our office so it may be replaced. Before your tooth is fitted with a crown or permanent filling, you should avoid sticky and hard foods. Also try to chew on the side of your mouth opposite the site of your root canal therapy.
It is common to experience some degree of discomfort in the days following root canal therapy. Tylenol and ibuprofen are effective over-the-counter pain relievers. In many cases, the dentist will prescribe an antibiotic to help fight off infection. Continue to take this for the full duration of the prescription. If the pain continues for more than three days or you notice the pain increasing, please call us so we may arrange a follow-up appointment. Pain and swelling may be symptoms of an infection.