Phone (513) 251-5500
January 30th, 2019

Root Canals: FAQs

Category: cincinnati dentist

Mention a root canal to someone and they may show a sign of discomfort or they may even cringe at the thought of it!

But the reality is, today, root canals don’t deserve the negative reputation they still seem to have!

In fact, root canals can be a great choice when your tooth otherwise can’t be saved! Let’s take a closer look at some of the most common questions we hear about root canals—including whether or not it’s true that they are very painful.

What is a root canal?

A root canal is a way of treating, repairing or saving a tooth that is badly damaged or a tooth that is infected. Think of it this way: when the nerve or pulp of the tooth is badly infected or inflamed, that’s when people often need a root canal treatment.

The procedure involves several steps. To simplify them a bit, these steps include: removing the damaged area of your tooth, cleaning the area, and then filling and sealing it.

Common causes that lead to a necessary root canal include a cracked tooth or a cavity that is problematic or very severe. Sometimes when someone has had repeated dental treatment they need a root canal. Last but not least, any other time there have been severe trauma to a tooth, it’s potentially a case where a root canal can help!

So…why the term “root canal”? The term “root canal” references the cleaning of the canals inside your tooth’s root! (1) 

What is involved in a root canal repair?

The root canal procedure is aimed at removing damage to your interior pulp. This way, the natural tooth can be strengthened and saved from further damage.

Prior to any treatment, it’s normal to take X-rays to make sure we know everything about the area, including the surrounding bone structure. Next, you will receive local anesthesia to numb the tooth and area. (That’s similar to when you many other dental treatments, and that’s part of why the pain isn’t typically much different, either.)

In some cases, a dental dam is added into your mouth at this point to keep the tooth and the area around it dry during your procedure. We then clear away the diseases or damaged parts of the tooth. In some cases, the tooth is irrigated and the remaining pulp is removed.

Additionally, sometimes an antimicrobial solution is used to fight off bacteria even more. Once the area has been cleaned and dried, it’s filled. That’s when you will have a temporary filling until the permanent crown is used. That’s typically done as soon as possible. When it’s a fit, recall that at Hagen, we also offer CEREC, which uses 3D printing to create a tooth-colored restoration that we make in about an hour. But usually, a traditional crown is used; it just depends on the tooth.

Why do I need to get a root canal? 

If your dentist told you they recommend you get a root canal, you may have a severely damaged or decaying tooth. You may also have a very aggressive tooth infection. You may also have some other form of damage to the tooth, such as a crapped or chipped tooth.

The idea is what you want to repair your tooth instead of removing it!

As mentioned, contrary to popular belief, you can be comfortable and fully relaxed during the procedure. The benefits are that you can preserve your tooth—so no missing tooth and no having to try to replace a tooth. Not to be forgotten, you can still bite and chew just like normal days after the procedure. Last but not least, the procedure also stops the spreading of infection in the mouth.

What should I expect?

We will talk to you about everything to expect during the procedure. In general, we first take x-rays to look at the area if we think a root canal is your best treatment plan.

After, anesthesia is administered to the area so you can stay comfortable during the procedure.

Then, an opening is made and the diseased tooth area is removed. Next, the area is cleaned. Last, is the filling: the roots have been opened up, so it needs to be filled for longevity (1).

What happens if you don’t get a root canal?

If you select not to get a root canal, in some cases it may mean you can get rid of the pain or infection by removing the tooth. The problem with tooth loss is that it can impact your quality of life (even things like chewing), it can lead to tooth migration, and in some cases, can lead to bone loss.

In other cases, it might be appropriate or a possibility to replace the tooth with a bridge, implant, or partial denture. Ask us if you’d like more explanation for your specific situation! 

People talk about root canals and say they are very painful. Is that true? 

Consider this: pain management and anesthetics we have available to us today have come A LONG way from the days where people worried about the pain associated with root canals! Said another way, root canals can RELIEVE major pain and they really don’t deserve the reputation they’ve earned as being extremely painful.

When performed under local anesthesia, they are not any more painful or uncomfortable than getting a regular filling for a cavity. With that said, we are extremely understanding of any anxiety you may have, regardless of the anesthesia and pain management options that are available today.

Typically, we find that after treatment, the tooth is sensitive or in some cases, people feel a slight sort of pressure or sensitivity. You may have experienced this in the past with other dental procedures!

Based on the guidelines we give, you may take over-the-counter medications to help with the pain after the anesthesia has worn off. That’s always going to be different for each individual patient. Our goal is to make you completely comfortable: before, during, and after the procedure, so we’ll come up with a plan—with you—to make sure you feel confident and can follow the instructions after you leave our office, too (1).

all about root canals hagen dental practice

How should I care for my teeth after the root canal procedure?

That’s a great question! You want to be sure to take care of your mouth properly after a root canal. Let’s start with some good news: your restored tooth can last a lifetime if you take proper care of it.

Always follow the guidelines of your dentist, but generally speaking, you are going to want to be gentle on the area and avoid chewing on hard and/or chewy foods. That way, you avoid adding any extra, unnecessary “stress” to the tooth and area.

After all, hard or even crunchy foods (like ice or certain candies) can be what causes teeth to break. Chewing on these after a root canal just puts your teeth at unnecessary risk. Plus, until a crown is placed, think of your tooth as unprotected.

After your procedure is complete, keep up with your regular, good oral health habits. It’s all about consistency over time! That includes brushing twice a day minimum and diligently flossing. Return to see us for your regular visits for your deep cleaning and oral exams that are critical to your long-term oral health. We’ll continue to check on the health and the status of the tooth to ensure everything looks as it should.

Earning Your Trust – With Personalized Care

At Hagen Dental Practice, we’re happy to provide a full range of dental care services to all members of your family. Setup an appointment online or call us at (513) 251-5500 today!



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