I'm Nervous About My Upcoming Root Canal

Having a decayed or infected tooth can cause persistent pain, discoloration, or gum swelling and affect your daily life. It can result in discomfort when you eat, consume hot or cold food, or apply pressure on the damaged tooth. 

A root canal, known as endodontic therapy, can resolve the condition and save the affected tooth, avoiding the need for removal. With over 15 million root canals administered every year, the procedure is relatively common. 

Dentists John Vellequette, DDS, and Stephanie Fung, DDS, of Smile Center Silicon Valley in Sunnyvale, California, provide professional dental services that include helping patients save their natural teeth with root canal therapy. Our dental team ensures that you receive expert, caring treatment so you remain comfortable through every stage of your root canal and finish with a healthy tooth. 

Relieve your anxiety by learning what’s involved in the procedure and how this treatment can save your tooth.

Definition of a root canal

The term “root canal” can be confusing. It often refers to the endodontic procedure used to treat infections in the root canal of a tooth. The procedure involves removing infected pulp and sealing the opening to protect it from further infection. 

A root canal is also the name of the hollow section of your tooth that is treated during the procedure. It starts at the top of your tooth crown and extends to the tip of the root. Its contents include pulp, which contains blood vessels, nerves, and connective tissue.

Bacteria can infect the pulp through a deep cavity or crack in a damaged tooth. When an infection occurs, the affected pulp must be removed. If left untreated, it can cause a serious infection or abscess. These conditions can lead to bone deterioration, pulp death, and eventual loss of the affected tooth. 

While pulp helps the development of a healthy tooth, the need for it diminishes as a tooth matures. A root canal is performed to remove the diseased pulp and help you maintain your natural tooth before an infection causes so much bone damage that the tooth requires extraction.

The root canal technique

Before the procedure, your dentist uses X-rays to identify the source and location of the decay.

The area to be treated is numbed with the injection of a local anesthetic. Anesthetic sedation is also available if necessary. 

Typically, the affected tooth is protected from saliva and kept sanitary throughout the procedure with a dental dam, a small layer of rubber placed around the affected tooth.  

When your tooth is numb, your dentist drills a hole on the tooth’s surface to reach the diseased area within the root. Small files are used to remove the damaged and unhealthy pulp. Water is used to flush debris from the pulp chamber and root canals.

 To finish your root canal, your dentist uses a rubber-like material called gutta percha to fill the top of the tooth. This material seals the empty canals and protects the tooth from damage from saliva. If you need a permanent crown, a temporary crown or filling is typically applied to protect the treated tooth until it’s ready for the crown.  

Pain management

The purpose of a root canal is to treat a pain-causing infection. Though you may feel nervous about experiencing pain during the procedure, the procedure doesn’t cause pain. 

The local anesthetic numbs your tooth and the surrounding area for the duration of the procedure. However, if you desire sedation, our team offers nitrous oxide (laughing gas), to help you remain calm during the procedure. 

Oral or IV sedation is also available for patients who desire this type of support. In many cases, patients who receive sedation during a root canal fall asleep during the procedure or don’t remember having the work done. 

Results of a root canal

Most patients feel well enough to return to normal activities within 24 hours after the procedure. If the infection spread beyond the pulp, you may have to take a course of oral antibiotics to ensure that it is completely removed. You should avoid using the treated tooth to bite or chew if you have a temporary filling. 

You’ll return to our office in about a week. At that time, your dentist will take an X-ray to check for signs of infection. If you need a permanent crown, it will be inserted at your return visit. 

A root canal can restore your tooth for a lifetime of use. You can keep it healthy with daily brushing, flossing, and annual dental cleanings. However, delaying or avoiding a root canal because of nervousness about the procedure can increase your chances of losing the tooth. 

Learn more about the benefits of root canal therapy and how it can make a difference in the health of a damaged tooth. Call our office or book online to arrange a consultation.

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