We’re pretty confident reading about root canal treatment is nowhere on your list of fun things to do this month – particularly with Saint Patrick’s day being right around the corner. We’re sure you’d rather read about all-things-green. So, how about we fill you in on something we think you do want to read about: how to avoid one, or if your dentist has suggested you need one, why you shouldn’t worry one bit. How’s that for a compromise?
Why a Root Canal is Sometimes NecessaryRoot canal treatment is required when the nerves within the tooth’s root have been damaged by either trauma or decay. To repair this damage, the tooth would need to be treated in almost the exact same manner as a filling, except that treatment would extend to the tooth’s roots. The biggest misconception about root canal treatment is that the procedure is painful. In truth, the pain comes from ignoring an aching tooth for so long that the trauma or decay progresses to such a degree that the pain becomes overwhelming. So, it’s not the procedure that hurts, it is the patient’s decision to avoid dental visits and early treatment when experiencing tooth discomfort.
Some Good Things to Keep in Mind to Avoid a Root Canal
- Pay Attention to Pain: When your teeth bother you, this is a signal your body is giving you that something is not right in your mouth. For example, if you experience hot and cold sensations on a regular basis, or pressure sensitivity that comes when eating or closing your mouth completely, these could be signs that the nerve in your tooth is traumatized or damaged. Don’t ignore these signals, and contact your dentist.
- Address Anxiety and Stress: It has been said that grinding and clenching your teeth is the rough equivalent of having a 250-lb. linebacker sitting on your teeth at night. That doesn’t sound good, right? Well, it’s not, and it can severely damage your teeth, aggravate the nerve, and cause bone loss and headaches. Not fun. See the dentist if you wake up with headaches in the morning, and ask for your dentist’s opinion as to whether they believe you might be a grinder. They can tell simply from looking at your teeth and your X-rays.
Busting the Root Canal Pain Myth
In just the last ten years, advances in dental technology, not to mention an increased attention to chairside manner, have resulted in root canal treatment that is of no more discomfort than having a tooth filled. Here are some of the reasons why this is true:
- Electric drills that spin faster and vibrate less: In the big fight against the whirring, heat-miser drills of the past, that transfer heat to the tooth and cause discomfort, today's drills are winning the appreciation of dental patients everywhere.
- A more comprehensive array of anesthesia: New medicines allow for greater control over numbing localization as well as the length of time needed for anesthetic.
- Digital X-rays and 3-D imaging: The newest dental imaging solutions allow your doctor to diagnose root canal cases more accurately and reduce the potential for mistaken retreatment.
- Microscopic cameras: Used in some offices, such cameras allow for greater examination of the inside of the tooth, and can allow surgeons to give patients a play-by-play of the procedure if they wish.
- Laser technology: Your doctor may even use a dental laser instead of a traditional drill, reducing treatment time and ensuring a faster recovery.
- Less time in the chair: Perhaps the best part? In some cases, the time for this procedure has come down to only an hour or two.