A root canal is a common dental treatment that can repair and save decayed or infected teeth. Essentially, during this procedure, the nerve and pulp are removed from the inside of your tooth which is subsequently cleaned and sealed. "Root canal" is usually the term used to refer to the cavity that is naturally found in the centre of teeth, and a tooth's nerve is located within the root canal.
Somewhat surprisingly, the nerve of a tooth is not crucial to the health and function of said tooth after it has emerged in the gums. Indeed, the nerve provides only a sensory function so that you can feel hot and cold. As such, removing the nerve and pulp will not have an effect on the daily functioning of your teeth.
While root canal may refer to the natural cavity inside your teeth, it is also the common name for the procedure to remove the nerves and pulp from this cavity. While some patients have no symptoms that indicate a root canal procedure may be necessary, there are many signs that can help you decide if you need to see a dentist and ultimately undergo this procedure.
The main signs that you may need to have a procedure
- Extreme tooth pain, especially when chewing or applying pressure to the tooth,
- Extended sensitivity to hot or cold temperatures, even after the hot/cold stimuli have been removed,
- Darkening or discoloration of the tooth,
- Tenderness and swelling in the surrounding gums, and
- A recurring pimple on the gums.
If you have experienced one or more of these symptoms, especially if the symptoms persist, you should visit your dentist. You may not need a procedure, but these signs are usually only present if there is something wrong with your teeth or gums.
What to Expect
Root canals have a very dubious reputation as being extremely painful procedures. However, most patients feel no more pain from a root canal than they report from getting a filling. Your dentist has likely completed hundreds or even thousands of procedures during his/her career, so you really have nothing to fear. Following your root canal your tooth may feel more sensitive due to your body's natural inflammatory response. Sensitivity and discomfort can usually be controlled with over-the-counter analgesics such as ibuprofen or naproxen; and you should expect to return to your normal daily activities immediately.
However, procedures may require more than one dental visit; as such, you should avoid chewing with the treated tooth until a permanent filling or crown has been placed. Once the procedure is complete, you can maintain your usual oral hygiene regimen which should include daily brushing and flossing.
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