If you have a complicated one, with tooth roots that have grown in a twisted manner or other unusual features, your dentist may have you go to a specialist. If it is a straightforward root canal he will very likely be equipped to clean the tooth out and seal it himself.
Some people are tense during their trips to the dentist, and others are quite relaxed and even fall asleep as the dentist does their work. Soft music of often playing while you recline back in the special chair that is perfectly suited to make you comfortable, while placing you in the correct position for optimum work by the dentist during your root canal treatment.
An injection of a numbing agent will be administered in gum area that will intercept the pain signals from the tooth. People are often fearful, but dentists now have techniques that greatly reduce discomfort from the shots. Some children do not even realize they have been given a shot, but think their cheek was just pinched and jiggled.
If a filling or crown is on your tooth, the dentist will either remove it or make an entry through it, treating it as if it were part of the tooth itself. A sheet of rubber, called a rubber dam, might be put around your tooth, but sometimes the dentist works without one, especially if you have discomfort from holding your jaw open for long periods.
This rubber sheet will prevent the area from becoming wet and contaminated by your saliva while the dentist works. This prevents any possible complications from infection.
The apparatus also assists in prevention of particles or liquids from entering your throat. At the same time, the dental assistant will be watching and operating a suction tool to make sure all pieces are cleaned up and out of the way. This is both for your comfort and for the dentist to have a clean area to work in.
Once the crown or filling is removed if they existed, or drilled through with the tiny dental drill, the goal becomes to reach the root canal and the dead pulp inside the tooth. Infection is difficult to remove from pulp, due to low blood circulation in teeth, and pain is a very common symptom of infection. Teeth do not usually survive an infection like this and the pulp dies. This must be removed.
Your healthcare provider will begin to remove the diseased or dead pulp from the canal that extends up into each root. The doctor uses x-ray images to get a very good idea of where the canal is located.
Using specialized tools that are small enough to fit through the hair-width openings of the canals, the dentist completely opens them and flushes them clean. After this, the tooth is filled and sealed up with a filling material.
If you need a crown at this point, it may take an additional visit or two to finish the task. This initial visit should take no longer than 90 to 120 minutes. Your face will be numb near the tooth for a few hours. You should avoid eating or drinking anything for the first 30 minutes after you leave the dental office. The doctor may prescribe something for pain if you have been having severe trouble, but mostly likely this was taken care of before you came for the procedure.
All in all, root canals are far from the typical frightening scenes we all remember from childhood movies. They are completed quickly and you can go back to work or play right away, though your smile may be a bit crooked for a few hours.
Meg Jones works with Raleigh Comprehensive and Cosmetic Dentistry and just had a root canal herself the week of this writing. All went quite well.