A root canal is a dental procedure that helps save a decayed tooth. Teeth are made of layers – the outer layer is the enamel and inside layer is called the dentin. Inside the dentin is the pulp. Tooth decay eats into the enamel, the dentin and then the pulp. Once this happens, it can lead to infection or loss of the tooth.
This is when your dentist will recommend that you have a root canal, which removes the pulp and the damaged nerves, cleans the pocket and then fills the tooth with a dental filler.
How do you know you need a root canal?
There are several symptoms that can tell you whether you are a candidate for a root canal. Your teeth (especially the molars), may hurt or have holes due to decay, they may become sensitive or they may discolor.
When you have an infection you will experience a lot of pain; there will be swelling and tenderness in the surrounding jaw area, and you may even notice pus draining from around the tooth. If this happens you should see your dentist right away.
What does a root canal procedure entail?
Your Baton Rouge dentist will usually perform the procedure in one or two visits depending on the state of the tooth. The first thing that he will do is take an X-ray of the tooth and the surrounding jaw in order to determine how badly damaged the tooth is.
A local anesthesia will be injected near the tooth to keep the area numb during the procedure after which, it will be disinfected and a dental dam placed over it (which helps isolate the tooth and keep it clean during the procedure).
The next step is to use very small instruments to make a small hole in the crown of the tooth. Through this hole your dentist will remove the pulp and nerve tissue, and clean it to prepare it for the dental filling.
Your dentist may also shape it accordingly to accommodate the filling better. The filling is then placed into the hole. This is usually temporary to allow the area to heal. Once you have healed, your dentist will replace the temporary filling with a more permanent one, and then install a new crown on the tooth to restore proper function.
Why not just have the tooth extracted?
The reason why you don’t want your tooth extracted is that it will cost you more in the long run – the missing tooth will have to be replaced with a bridge and prosthetic tooth of some kind, and these are usually rather expensive.
A root canal will take care of the problem just as well as a new tooth but it will cost you much less. Furthermore, a tooth cannot be extracted and not replaced; the gap will eventually affect all your other teeth and even your facial features.
What is the healing process for a root canal?
Healing from a root canal can take anywhere from a few days to a week or slightly longer. The area around the tooth will be sensitive, but if you develop any pain you should take the pain medications the dentist gave you. Make sure to take the antibiotics as recommended.
You will be asked to eat only soft foods until you are completely healed. Avoid things like candy and ice – they can cause further damage. As far as dental care is concerned, you should brush and floss as usual. If after the procedure you notice any swelling or get a fever you should call your dentist right away – it is likely that you are developing an infection.