It’s understandable if you’re having second thoughts when it comes to getting your first root canal.
In movies and on TV, it’s portrayed as this highly invasive procedure that leaves you overly sedated, completely out of it, and yet it’s totally painful. Well, we’re here to tell you, that is simply not the case. With modern-day endodontic procedures, getting a root canal is as easy as getting a filling. You’ll be in and out with your smile intact, containing all of its natural teeth. How do we do it? Below a step-by-step walkthrough of how a modern-day root canal treatment is performed.
For some, the scariest part of the procedure may be step 1. This is where we administer the numbing agent via injection. Now, we’ve never met anyone who enjoys needles, but we’ve met plenty of people who are absolutely terrified by them. However, there really isn’t a reason to fear them, especially at the dentist office. The numbing agent acts so quickly, you’ll barely feel the injection.
The injection helps numb the tooth and the tissue surrounding it. If the pulp of your tooth is severely inflamed, then Step 1 is incredibly important. The inflammation already causes pain, so attempting to work on it without numbing it would prove to be even more painful. Our endodontist will not begin working on your tooth until you’re completely sure the entire area is fully numb.
We then place a dental dam over the affected tooth and the adjacent ones. A dental damn is a thin piece of rubber or vinyl. It helps isolate the infected tooth as it blocks off the adjacent teeth while the affected one pokes through the material. It helps create a sterile environment, one that’s free from the bacteria in your saliva or any other part of your mouth.
At this point the infected tooth is isolated, a sterile environment has been created, and the numbing agent is in full effect. We’re ready to drill a small hole into the tooth. The hole is created on the biting surface of the tooth, and it is a very small hole. However, it’s just large enough for us to access the pulp chambers and root canals in order to clear out the infection. Therefore, the size of the hole drilled depends on how inflamed the pulp and root canals are.
The next step is to remove all diseased tissue from the tooth. This includes dead and/or diseased pulp. We use a specially designed instrument to clean out the root canals and the pulp chamber. This specially designed tool reduces any and all pain, especially since the area is already numbed and the tissue and the nerves contained in it are mostly dead. Once it’s all removed, the tooth itself can no longer feel pain.
After all of the infected tissue is removed, it’s important to keep it disinfected. Bacteria can still get into the small hole drilled into your tooth, so after it’s removed we must clean the root canals with antiseptic and antibacterial solutions.
We must then reshape the root canals in order to prepare the fillings and sealers. We do this with more specially designed tools. These tiny, flexible instruments allow us to work with accuracy and dexterity, ensuring that the root canals are properly shaped in order for a snug fitting of the fillings and sealants.
Root canal fillings are selected to fit the freshly prepared canals. The material is a rubber-like substance that is heated and then compressed into and against the walls of the root canals to seal them. Then adhesive cement is used to permanently seal up the canals to prevent any chance of bacteria from reinfecting the tooth.
A temporary filling may be used to seal the initial hole created at the beginning of the procedure. If it’s small enough a permanent filling will be used. Again, this all comes down to the extent of the infection. If it was a minor one, it may be possible to permanently seal it. If it was a larger infection then the hole will be bigger, and we can only temporary fill it until we can place a permanent crown on it.
The dental dam is also removed at this time, and a post made of strong plastic or metal may be placed inside one of the canals inside of the tooth if the structural integrity of the tooth has been compromised.
By this step, the procedure has been completed. However, you will still be prescribed antibiotics to treat or prevent further infection. Make sure you follow all instructions given to you by your endodontist. It’s also possible you’ll experience slight discomfort once the numbing agent wears off. You may manage any pain by taking over-the-counter medications such as aspirin or ibuprofen.
The final step involves getting your tooth permanently restored. In Step 8, the plastic post inserted or the temporary filling is not a permanent solution for your tooth. In order to have permanent structural stability, you’ll need to come back to our office where our endodontist will suggest a general dentist to determine which type of restoration is best for you.
You can either get another filling or a crown. Depending on how extensive the infection was will determine the type of restoration you’ll need. This is of particular importance since studies have shown that the filled root canals can be contaminated again, causing a recurrence of the infection around the tooth.
Root Canals Do Not Cause Pain; They Relieve It
Despite the nasty pop culture references to root canals, they are relatively simple procedures. They just requires a lot of diligence since the root canals are tiny, but thanks to modern technology such as the improvement of the tools used during the procedure, it can be done pain-free. There is no need to fear getting one. Most of the times, fear is stemmed from the unknown. Hopefully, now that you’re all experts at root canals, if you need to get one (hopefully never!), sitting in that dentist’s chair won’t scare you so much so that you’ll put off getting one.