Root Canal FAQ

If you need root canal treatment, it’s natural to feel a bit nervous. But it’s helpful to know that root canal therapy involves routine procedures that relieve you of pain and greatly extend the use of your natural teeth. With the dentists at the Yuba City Dentistry Group you are in capable hands. Here are the answers to some questions you may have about root canals.

What exactly is a root canal?

Technically, the term “root canal” refers to the tiny, narrow passageways that travel from the hollow space in the center of your tooth (the pulp chamber) to the ends of the tooth roots. Most people, however, use the term “root canal” as shorthand for “root canal treatment,” i.e., the procedure that a dentist performs to repair and save a tooth that is badly decayed or infected.

Do I really need a root canal?

If decay or injury leads to inflammation or infection of the tooth’s pulp, it becomes necessary to remove the tissue in order to prevent further infection and save the tooth. You may be surprised to know that an adult tooth doesn’t actually need the pulp; its primary purpose is to help develop the tooth during childhood.

Are there any alternatives?

If a tooth is severely infected, the only real alternative is extraction. But this could lead to numerous complications including bite problems from teeth that have shifted position, the need for a dental bridge or implant, and loss of jawbone volume and density. Saving the tooth is always the better option, and root canal therapy has a success rate of over 90%.

How painful is it?

Root canal therapy has a bad reputation, but it’s mostly undeserved. The disease that makes root canal treatment necessary is the real culprit; an infected tooth can be extremely painful due to the number of nerves found in the pulp. With the help of local anesthetic, a root canal procedure shouldn’t be more painful than receiving a filling. You can also mentally “skip the procedure” by using conscious oral sedation, also explained on our website. And to be sure, the root canal procedure will both relieve and prevent a great amount of pain.

What can I expect during the procedure?

First, the area is numbed. Next, a small opening is made in the crown (top) of the tooth, providing access to the pulp chamber and narrow passageways known as the root canals. (Front teeth have one root and generally one canal; back teeth have two to three roots and three or four canals.) Next, very small instruments are used to remove dead and dying pulp tissue. Following this, the chamber and empty canals are cleaned and disinfected. Finally, the tooth is filled with a biocompatible material, and an adhesive cement seals the tooth, preventing future infection. The access hole receives a temporary filling.

What can I expect after the root canal treatment?

Following your procedure, your tooth may feel sensitive or tender for a period of time. Over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen are generally enough to relieve any discomfort. You should avoid biting on the tooth until it receives a permanent filling, which will happen a few days later. The final step in your treatment is to have a crown or restoration placed on top of the tooth. Your Yuba City dentist will discuss the options available.

How can I prevent the need for root canal therapy?

Good general health care, such as brushing and flossing daily, can help keep your teeth free of decay. Avoid sugar and acidic beverages as much as possible, and eat a healthy diet. If you like to play sports, a custom mouthguard or mask will help protect your teeth from serious injury.

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