Tuesday, March 12, 2013

What Exactly Is A Root Canal?

There is so much misinformation about root canals in the public. For some reason most people are incredibly terrified of root canals. This may be due to many people on television over dramatizing root canals. We may also have friends and family telling us their horror stories with root canals.

Here's a little secret.............ROOT CANALS DON'T HURT!

Many of you may be asking yourselves how this could be the case. The problem is that the vast majority of the population does not visit a dentist except for when there is an emergency. When you have an infected or inflamed tooth, there can be significant pain. This will prompt a visit with the dentist. The dentist may then tell them that they need a root canal. They will then associate the pain and the root canal. However, the root canal doesn't cause pain. The pain is the result of an infected or inflamed tooth. The good news is that once you're numb, there is no pain with the actual procedure.

In the diagram on the left, an inflamed pulp is depicted. In this case the inflammation was caused by the large area of decay in close proximity to the pulp. When this occurs, you may experience pain when there are rapid thermal changes on a tooth like when you eat or drink something cold. You may even feel the tooth throb as if you can feel your heart beat in your tooth. These are tell-tale signs of inflammation within a tooth.

The diagram on the right is depicting an infected tooth. In this case, the nerves and blood vessels are necrotic (dead). Therefore, pain is not elicited with hot or cold. However, there can still be significant pain when biting pressure is applied. This is because the surrounding bone is also infected and any pressure on the tooth will be felt in the affected areas of bone. You may notice an area of swelling in the face or in the tissues surrounding the infected tooth. You may even notice a foul taste originating from a small hole in the gums where pus may drain from.

So what do we do in these cases? A root canal!

A root canal is really quite simple. The sole goal of a root canal is to remove the pus, bacteria and diseased/necrotic tissue. That's all it really is. Once the canals are thoroughly cleaned, we then seal the canals to prevent recontamination of the canal spaces. In the radiograph (x-ray) below, you'll see an example of two teeth that have been treated. Notice the black areas at the tips of the root. These are areas that have an abscess. The white areas are the canal spaces that have been sealed.

If you understand what I just said about root canals, you will no longer fear them. I hope this has helped the fearful.

Dr. Cisneros maintains a practice in Freeburg and Columbia, IL. Both are in the Greater St Louis, MO area. For more information on a wide variety of subjects, please visit www.advanced-smiles.com

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