Why root canals are NOT scary (and tips for post-surgery)
Root canals get a really bad rep. Mostly, people think of the pain and a mad dentist wielding a menacing drill, but it’s not nearly that bad. Root canal procedures these days are far less terrifying than you may think and, more importantly, keep the pain to a minimum.
Sometimes it’s just the phrase that makes people cringe without knowing what the heck a root canal actually entails. When a tooth root gets really infected the dentist has to drill a hole and clean out the root to make sure the infection doesn’t spread. Left untreated, the infection can become more painful and dangerous than having a root canal in the first place. In extreme cases, emphasis on extreme, the bacteria could potentially spread to the brain and cause more systemic issues.
A root canal doesn’t seem so bad now, right? Let’s take a look at the four-step process. It’ll make it seem less intimidating!
- Needles. They might be scary, but it’s way better than taking a swig of alcohol to dull the pain like back in the day. Your dentist will numb your gums with a gel-like substance and then use some local anesthesia (i.e. a needle) to numb the affected tooth root. Then, s/he will place a rubber buffer or dental dam around the tooth to keep it dry while s/he clears away the infection.
- More metal things… Once the tooth is ready for cleaning, your dentist will drill a hole into your tooth. Next s/he’ll take away the diseased parts (pulp) out and shape the inside of your tooth using metal files, so it’s easy to fill it in with synthetic material. Then you’ll get a good rinse with water and antibacterial solution to keep the infection from coming back.
- Gutta percha (and other new words!) Here’s where your dentist tags in the endodontist. S/he’ll fill the hole in your freshly disinfected tooth with a rubber substance called gutta percha and tag your dentist back into the action. Then, the dentist comes back to put a temporary crown to protect their hard work and the nerves in your tooth socket.
You’re done for now! The last step is to go back after a couple weeks to get a permanent crown and supporting infrastructure called a post, depending on if your tooth is stable enough to support its new hardware.
Going forward, here are some tips to keep your teeth healthy and to prevent breaking your new crown:
- Avoid chewing hard foods. Your crown can break relatively easily, so chew on the other side of your mouth, or let things like ice melt.
- Brush and floss regularly. Timeless advice, but it especially applies to people with lots of bacteria buildup in their mouths.
- Let the dentist examine your teeth on a regular basis. S/he can determine if the procedure was successful and can spot any potential or developing problems.
- Maintain a healthy lifestyle. Doing this will keep your entire being running smoothly and promote growth of good bacteria in your mouth–yes, there is such a thing.
The further an infection develops, the more dangerous it becomes. That’s why it’s important to visit your dentist twice yearly, so s/he can spot problems before they turn infectious.
Not so bad, right? Now that you know a little more about one of the seemingly scarier procedures in the dental world, it’ll be a piece of cake–if you ever need a root canal. Some people go their whole lives without needing one; it’s all about staying on top of your hygiene (brush, floss, tongue scrape, rinse), and focus on holistic care for your entire body (eat lots of veggies, drink water, reduce your intake of soda and juice, eat grass-fed beef, exercise regularly, take time to chill, you get it). And, of course, make your dentist’s office a regular part of your health routine.
Can’t wait to see you!