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Dental Associates of Northern Virginia - Pinecrest
4604-D Pinecrest Office Park Dr, Alexandria, VA 22312

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Uncover the Truth About Root Canal Treatment

Root canal therapy is a very common dental procedure with about 15 million performed every year in the U.S. Despite the treatment stopping pain and saving the tooth, most people are not happy to hear they need one. Someone who has never had a root canal will imagine they are painful, which they aren’t. Before root canal therapy, dentists had to pull infected teeth, leaving patients with a gap in their smile. Expensive implants or dental bridge to are the only way to fill the gap.

Thanks to many advancements in dental technology and methodologies, a root canal can save a natural tooth and make it quite strong. The idea is that by getting a root canal you can prevent the infection from spreading and keep a perfectly good tooth intact. If you need a root canal, don’t worry, it’s much easier than it seems. Keep reading for more information.

Why Would I Need a Root Canal?

Teeth have two main parts; the crown and the root, which you can’t see. Teeth have three layers, with the inside containing the pulp. The pulp is inside a chamber in the crown with canals that extend into the root. Every tooth has at least one root canal. You would need root canal treatment when the pulp tissue becomes infected. This can happen with untreated decay eats through the two outer layers of the tooth. It can also occur when a filling or the tooth cracks, or when the tooth suffers a serious injury. Without root canal therapy to remove the pulp, the infection will spread and can damage to the jawbone. At this stage in the infection, it is the only way to save the tooth.

What Are the Typical Signs that I Need a Root Canal?

  • The signs of an infected tooth vary depending on the severity of the infection. Some of the key symptoms to keep an eye on are:
  • Tooth pain that interferes with your daily life
  • Swollen or painful gums close to the affected tooth
  • Graying or discolored tooth
  • A pimple on the gum close to the tooth
  • An abcess

If you are experiencing any of these issues, contact your dentist right away!

FAQs About a Root Canal Treatment

If your dentist suggests a root canal treatment, it’s natural to feel a little bit nervous. It’s a virtually painless procedure that is quite effective in saving your tooth. If you have any concerns, please ask these questions first:

  1. Am I a good candidate for root canal therapy?
  2. Can you tell me about the pain?
  3. Is there any other procedure that can give me the same results?
  4. What are the steps in a good canal procedure?
  5. How long does root canal therapy take?
  6. Will I get a local anesthetic first?
  7. What are the risks involved with root canal procedures?
  8. What will my tooth be like after I get a crown?
  9. How much is the average root canal procedure?
  10. Do most dental insurance plans cover root canals?

What Are the Steps Involved in Root Canal Therapy?

You’ll have an exam by a dentist first, which includes x-rays. You will also need to supply a medical history and a list of medications you take. If you have an acute infection, the dentist may put you on antibiotics first and have you return in a few days for your root canal. Otherwise, the procedure goes like this:

Step 1 – Numbing the Tooth

You’ll receive an injection containing local anesthesia. Badly infected teeth take a while to get numb, but your dentist won’t begin until the area is completely numb.

Step 2 – The Dental Dam

To keep the pulp canals free of bacteria and saliva during the procedure, your dentist will place a rubber or vinyl dental dam in your mouth. This effectively isolates the tooth where the dentist works.

Step 3 – Pulp Removal

To reach the pulp, your dentist will have to drill a small hole in your tooth either on the back of the tooth or on the chewing surface. Your dentist will then remove the pulp using small files. Once the pulp is removed, the canals are rinsed with an antibacterial solution. Next, the dentist will shape the canals to hold the filling material and rinse them out again.

Step 4 – Filling the Canals

Once the canals are clean and dry, your dentist will fill them with gutta-percha, a rubber-like material that is heated and pressed against the canal walls. This seals the canals and prevents any bacteria that can cause an infection from getting in. Your dentist will cover the hole he or she drilled to reach the pulp with a temporary filling.

Step 5 – Your Final Restoration

Your dentist will explain why you need a crown to cover the tooth, which can crack easily now that the pulp has been removed. You can make another appointment to receive a crown fabricated to match your existing teeth.

Is There Any Pain After a Root Canal Procedure?

A little sensitivity around the treated tooth is normal, and it may last for a few days. Your dentist will recommend an over-the-counter pain reliever for you to take. Contact your dental office if you have extreme pain after a root canal or if the discomfort lasts more than a few days. Complications are rare; root canal procedures have a high success rate.

Can I Prepare for a Root Canal?

  1. Take your antibiotics as directed if your dentist prescribed them before your procedure. Dentists usually prescribe them first if the infection is severe. They also help with the pain as the infection subsides.
  2. If you smoke, quit a few days before the procedure and immediately afterward as tobacco inhibits healing.
  3. Eat a healthy meal before your procedure. It isn’t wise to eat after a root canal until the local anesthesia wears off.

Getting a Crown

You will make a second appointment with your dentist to get a crown to protect the tooth and give it back the strength it had before your root canal. Until you have the crown, refrain from chewing any hard foods with the tooth.

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Dental Associates of Northern Virginia - Pinecrest

4604-D Pinecrest Office Park Dr, Alexandria, VA 22312

(703) 940-1886