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Root Canals: Facts and Fiction

Not as Painful as You Might Think and Important for a Healthy Smile
Ever hear someone say’ I’d rather have a root canal than do that, referring to undergoing an excruciating dental process instead of do something even more horrible? The truth is most people report less pain than they thought after the procedure. Often the say it was like getting a simple filling or crown. Also, the benefits of having a root canal are enormous for lasting oral health.

A root canal is a treatment to repair and save a badly damaged or infected tooth. The procedure involves removing the damaged area of the tooth (the pulp), cleaning and disinfecting it and then filling and sealing it. The common causes affecting the pulp are a cracked tooth, a deep cavity, repeated dental treatment to the tooth or trauma. The term “root canal” comes from cleaning of the canals inside the tooth’s root.

Root Canal Process
Steps that occur over a few visits to the dentist:

X-ray  if a dentist suspects you may need a root canal, he will first take X-rays or examine existing X-rays to show where the decay is located.
Anesthesia  local anesthesia is administered to the affected tooth. Contrary to popular belief, a root canal is no more painful than a filling.
Pulpectomy  an opening is made and the diseased tooth pulp is removed.
Filling  the roots that have been opened (to get rid of the disease pulp) are filled and sealed off with cement.

Four Advantages of Root Canal
The fear of having the root of your tooth removed and replaced is unreasonable in many ways. Contrary to what you might believe, root canals are generally good things. They can help to prevent you from losing teeth, prevent infection and help the overall health of your mouth.
Inflammation Relief
Pulpitis occurs when the soft nerve tissue inside of the tooth, otherwise known as the nerve, becomes inflamed. Given the tight confines of this nerve, this can lead to painful aches when biting or drinking liquids that are cold or hot.
In most cases of pulpitis, the only way to stop the pain and inflammation is to remove the pulp. You might suffer without the root canal procedure.
Infection Control
Due to the limited blood flow that the pulp receives, it is rarely able to recover from infections. This allows bacteria to take hold and fester within the tooth.
Even when the bacteria is treated, pain may still persist due to the partial death of the pulp. This is another situation where a root canal is advantageous.
Decay Deterrent
When the damage to the pulp cannot be reversed tissue will gradually decay due to its inability to repair itself efficiently. This can spread to the underlying gum and bone tissue to affect other teeth. The dead tissue becomes a breeding ground for bacteria.
Root canals can stop further damage to your mouth.
The last major reason to reconsider that root canal concerns how it can prevent problems from occurring. Dentists recommend patients who are at risk for further pulp complications to undergo root canals for the affected teeth.
This caution can prevent asymptomatic abscesses, which lack pain, from developing into conditions that affect the remainder of your teeth and your mouth’s health. A root canal may be the one thing that saves the rest of your mouth from pain and more costly dental work.

Myths about Root Canal
Root canal is usually painful.
When people are told that they need a root canal treatment, they usually think about pain. However, the pain they feel is caused by an infection in the tooth, not by root canal treatment. A root canal is done to eliminate that pain. The root canal procedure itself is painless. A local anesthetic numbs the tooth and the surrounding area. Many people may be afraid to have a root canal because they are anxious about having dental work done. Dentists can provide calming medicines, such as nitrous oxide.
Why bother getting a root canal done when I’m just going to need the tooth taken out eventually?
It is not correct to assume that the treated tooth will eventually need to be extracted. In fact, most root canal treatments are successful and result in the tooth being saved.
I’m not feeling any pain, so I don’t really need a root canal.
Many teeth that need root canal therapy will not cause pain. But that does not mean the tooth is okay. Your dentist and endodontist have ways to see if the tooth’s pulp is damaged or infected. If it is, then you will need root canal treatment, even if the tooth doesn’t hurt. If you see something near a damaged tooth that looks like a pimple, see your dentist. The “pimple,” called a fistula, is a tunnel of tissue draining pus from an infection. There is no pain because the fistula keeps pressure from building in the tissue. It can come and go. The infection must be treated, and the tooth probably needs root canal treatment. Without treatment, nearby tissues will become infected.
A root canal means I’m having the roots of my tooth, or my whole tooth, removed.
The whole point of root canal therapy is to try to save a tooth, not to remove it. Your tooth and roots are not removed. The canals are cleaned and shaped on the inside only. The nerve tissue and pulp are removed along with some of the inside part of the root to ensure all the bacteria have been removed.

How Successful Are Root Canals?
Root canal treatment is highly successful; the procedure has more than a 95% success rate. Many teeth fixed with a root canal can last a lifetime.
Also, because the final step of the root canal procedure is application of a restoration such as a crown or a filling, it will not be obvious to onlookers that a root canal was performed.
Sources:, Colgate, WebMD

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