What is a Root Canal?

Dr. Mesa Roth

Let’s not beat around the bush: Nobody wants to get a root canal, and no dentist wants to tell a patient they need one. While it’s a treatment for severely decayed teeth, we help our patients understand it’s nothing to worry about. As with all dental procedures, you’ll be eating and smiling better than ever after it’s complete!

Small cavities from tooth decay just affect the enamel, with acids creating cavities. Your dentist usually treats this with a filling, or in the case of severe decay of the enamel, with a ceramic crown. In cases of severe decay or when the root becomes infected, your dentist will need to perform a root canal.

Root canal appointments usually take about an hour and a half. The procedure isn’t invasive, and shouldn’t cause any more discomfort than receiving a filling or a crown. You’ll receive local anesthetic during the procedure, and the area may be tender for a few days afterwards.

During the procedure, your dentist administers your anesthetic, and then makes an opening in the crown of your tooth. Using this opening ,and very, very small instruments, the damaged or infected pulp in your tooth is removed. Once the pulp is removed and shaped, your dentist fills the void with a rubbery substance, and seals the tooth, usually with a crown or another similar restoration.

A root canal can help save a natural tooth, so don’t put off the procedure. Delaying a root canal may ultimately lead you to lose the tooth. An extracted tooth leads to more complications, including shifting of the teeth around it and, in some cases, additional extractions because neighboring teeth absorb the forces of chewing.

Don’t be intimidated when your dentist says you need a root canal! While it may have a reputation as less ideal than needing a filling or a crown, it’s a proven, minimally invasive treatment for damaged teeth.


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