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Two words most people don’t want to hear at the dentist are “root canal.” That’s not surprising, given that root canal therapy is often a last resort to save a damaged tooth. But just like getting stitches to repair a deep cut, the treatment is rarely as bad as the anxiety that precedes it. And you’ll face serious consequences if you skip it.

We’ve provided information on root canal therapy so that you’ll be prepared, not panicky, if you ever need one! If you have any further questions about it, or about any dental procedure, call 1st in Smiles at 972-380-8105.

When You Need a Root Canal Procedure

You’ll need a root canal if the soft pulp inside your tooth becomes infected or inflamed. In advanced cases, the pulp will already be dead. Some of the most common causes of this are:

  • Decay that gets into the center of your tooth
  • Repeated dental procedures on a tooth
  • A cracked or chipped tooth

A blow to your tooth can also sever a nerve and cause it to die, or lead to a condition called root resorption in which your tooth structure actually begins to dissolve. With either of these conditions, the damage may not be noticeable right away.

Seek Attention for These Symptoms

You will often, though not always, experience pain when you need a root canal. You may also notice:

  • Sensitivity to heat or cold
  • Difficulty chewing
  • Discolored tooth
  • Swelling around your tooth

If you experience any of these symptoms, you should get to our Plano, TX dentist office as soon as possible! You may develop an abscess, a pocket of pus that can spread infection to surrounding bone and tissue and even other parts of your body. At this point you may notice drainage or a bad taste in your mouth. So it’s important not to ignore any of these symptoms.

Where Do Roots and Canals Come In?

Pulp is found within a hollow chamber inside your tooth. The chamber contains canals that extend through your tooth roots and down into the bone. All tooth roots have at least one root canal; some have multiple canals. Your pulp contains nerves, blood vessels, and connective tissue.

While pulp is essential during development of teeth, mature teeth don’t need it. So you can keep your tooth intact even without the pulp. It’s a good idea to save your tooth if you can because it keeps nearby teeth from shifting out of place and also helps keep your jawbone strong and healthy.

What Happens During Root Canal Treatment

Dr. Barfield will isolate the tooth with a piece of latex to keep it clean and dry while he works. He makes a small opening in the top of the tooth to access the canals. Then he uses special instruments to remove the infected pulp and to widen and shape the canals. Finally, he fills them with a rubber-like material called gutta percha. Because a tooth becomes brittle without pulp, Dr. Barfield will likely restore it with a dental crown to prevent breakage and other damage.

Root canals can typically be completed in one or two visits, depending on the number of canals involved and other factors. If the procedure requires more than a single appointment, Dr. Barfield will seal your tooth with a temporary filling to protect it between visits.

What About Pain?

Most patients don’t find a root canal procedure any more uncomfortable than getting a tooth filling or a dental crown. Really! And the procedure relieves the pain you may be feeling from the infection. We’ll thoroughly numb your mouth with local anesthesia so you won’t feel a thing.

However, dental sedation can be helpful if you’re anxious. Sedation also makes it easier to remain still or keep your mouth open during treatment, which typically lasts 90 minutes or so. We offer three kinds of sedation in our Plano, TX dentist office:

  • Inhaled sedation, or laughing gas
  • Oral sedation in the form of a prescription pill
  • IV sedation, which is administered intravenously

They all offer different levels of relaxation. Dr. Barfield will help you select the one that is right for your level of anxiety and the procedure. We can even combine inhaled and oral sedation.

Post-procedure Recovery

There should be little if any discomfort after your root canal therapy. The area may feel a bit tender, especially if you had an abscess prior to treatment. Unlike a tooth removal, you won’t have to modify your diet or oral hygiene routine in the days following the procedure. If eating is uncomfortable, try to avoid chewing with the affected tooth.

Take an over-the-counter pain medication if needed. If you still feel discomfort or notice any swelling after a few days pass, call us at 972-380-8105.