When you hear “root canal” does it make you shiver? Do the hairs on your arms stand on end? Do you get a creepy, crawly feeling up your spine? If so, then you are frightening yourself for no reason. Sure, there was a time–way back before local anesthetics–that people dreaded the thought of a root canal, crossed their fingers that they would never need one, and possibly avoided dental treatment for fear of needing one. However, although root canals are not the love canal, they are not that bad either!
Why a Root Canal?
If you have never had a root canal you may wonder why they are needed. You want to keep your teeth throughout your life, and to do this, you want to save as much natural tooth structure as possible. Therefore, tooth extraction is the very last choice for dental treatment. That’s where root canals come in. Root canals are performed to avoid extraction, if at all possible. The pulp (the inner living tissue) of your tooth can become infected, and when this happens root canal treatment becomes necessary to save your tooth.
What is a Root Canal?
Today root canals are no more uncomfortable than a dental filling, and they are not much more involved either. Before beginning the procedure your dentist will anesthetize your tooth and the area around it. During the procedure he or she will drill an access hole into your tooth from which the infected tooth pulp is removed. The inner chamber of the tooth is then cleaned and disinfected, filled with a rubber-like material called gutta percha, and the access hole is filled with composite resin dental filling. If required, depending on whether the infection was due to decay or a fracture, you may also need a crown over the remaining tooth structure to strengthen and protect your natural tooth.