I hope for your sake that you never have to get a root canal. As a young man I was playing basketball, going up for a rebound and someone elbowed me in the mouth, breaking my front tooth in half. Besides severe pain and agony, what followed was a procedure that a dentist untertook on my mouth known as a root canal. He saved part of my tooth and the nerve, and then covered it all with a crown. You can hardly tell anything ever happened.
Every tooth has a space or spaces inside the tooth (known as the pulp chamber) which goes through the centre of the tooth right down to the tip of the root. This is known as the root canal. The number of canals in individual teeth can vary from two to four in molars to one in incisors.
If there's pain in the tooth then there's a problem, and this can be caused by an abscess, an infection, decay or a trauma to the tooth which may have become chipped or broken exposing the nerve. In many of these cases your dentist will carry out root canal surgery to cure the problem.
If there is an infection present or there's an abscess the dentist will prescribe antibiotics before carrying out the root canal work. He or she will then arrange the necessary appointments in order to complete the surgery.
Your dentist will take an X-ray and you'll then be given a local anesthetic to numb the area. A plastic shield is used to isolate the tooth and keep it dry, and a solution of special disinfectant is used to thoroughly clean the inside of the tooth.
A drill makes a small hole into the pulp chamber so that your dentist can remove the nerve and infected tissue. The nerve is removed so as to prevent further infection and toothache. Normally it's recommended that a crown be placed over the tooth at a later date in order to protect it.
Sedation and Anesthesia
As a general rule a local anesthetic is all that's needed. This is injected into the gum surrounding the infected tooth.
An alternative to this is an intravenous sedation which is administered through a vein in the arm. This injection can help to make the patient relaxed and less aware of the procedure being carried out.
Some procedures which are likely to be complicated may require a general anesthetic which will result in loss of consciousness.
Be prepared for the costs. The cost of root canal treatment ranges from $350-$600 for a front tooth to $500-$800 for a molar.
An alternative to root canal would be to have the tooth extracted and replaced with an implant or a bridge. An implants dentist could help you with this.
Post Root Canal Home Care
After root canal surgery the area may be tender and sensitive when eating. This can last for a few days, and if it becomes uncomfortable over the counter medication is recommended. It's sensible to rest for a while so that your body can recover.
Go easy on your mouth for a while, eat foods that taste good but don't put a lot of stress and pressure on your gums and mouth. The last thing you want to do is alter the more permanent state that your dentist is going for.
A root canal doesn't have to be a serious thing, and hopefully you'll never need one. But if you do, make sure to find a dentist that knows the value of a pain-free dental visit!