If you know anything about the makeup of teeth, then you are probably aware of the fact that there is a hard, outer layer of enamel that protects the dentin within, which in turn surrounds the pulp, the inner layer that contains nerves and blood vessels. When the pulp or the nerves becomes damaged or inflamed, either through injury, illness, infection, or some other mishap, you are in real danger of losing it if you don’t take action. And this generally means undergoing a procedure called a root canal in which your dentist or oral surgeon drills into your tooth and removes the infected pulp so that your tooth can be disinfected, filled with a sealant, and topped off with a cap, preventing a potential abscess and putting an end to the pain you are no doubt suffering. However, you may have heard some rumors about root canals, to the effect that they are terribly painful and require extensive recovery time. Considering the advances in medical science, not to mention the fact that every patient is different, this may or may not be true for you. But here are just a few things you might want to be aware of before you schedule your root canal.
- A root canal can save your tooth. You might be tempted to argue with your dentist that a root canal isn’t necessary. After all, you can treat your infection with antibiotics, right? If you catch the problem early enough, this may be true. And there are certainly other options that you should discuss before you go through with the procedure if you’re uncomfortable. But if it’s gotten to the point where you’re in extreme pain, chances are good that you’ve done some permanent damage to the pulp of your tooth, and it may be irreversible. If your nerve is too damaged it may not recover, in which case your tooth will die. So if your dentist recommends a root canal, it is more likely than not because it’s the only way to save the roots.
- An abscess can be dangerous. If you fail to kill the infection in your pulp, the very real danger is that the bacteria will spread to the tip of the root and form an abscess, or a pocket of bacteria that can get into your gums and even your bloodstream. This can cause extreme pain, swelling, and even bone damage in addition to destroying the tooth. But even more frightening is that the abscess can move into your bloodstream, moving to the heart and leading to severe illness and even death.
- It costs less than a false tooth. Whereas a root canal is a relatively simple procedure that most dental insurance will cover in part, it will cost you significantly more to have a dead tooth removed, treat an abscess, and get a dental implant.
- The pain is similar to a filling. Nearly everyone has had a cavity filled, and most people would agree that a root canal is similar to getting a filling, although it may take longer, even extending into two sessions (the second being to place the cap in most cases). The healing time may be somewhat longer due to swelling, but the amount of pain you experience will depend largely on your pain threshold. Some people might need a prescription while others require little more than Advil. Most likely it won’t be nearly as bad as the pain you experience when your pulp is infected.
- You’re not alone. Millions of people undergoroot canal treatment every year, and the dentists and dental surgeons that perform these procedures are generally trained and experienced. So if you’re having tooth pain and you suspect that you may need a root canal, make an appointment at Saginaw Family Dental or your local office of choice for a dental examination.