Your dentist has indicated that you need a root canal. While this is a common procedure that many people undergo each year, there is still some hesitation on your part. One way to feel more at ease with the situation is to learn a bit about root canals. That includes understanding why you may need one, what to expect during the procedure, and how to care for yourself once the root canal is completed. Here are the basics that will help you feel better about what is about to happen.
Understanding Why You Need a Root Canal
The most likely reason why your dental professional is recommending a root canal is that there is some indication of an infection within the tooth. Specifically, it’s in the tooth root. Without the treatment, the infection will only get worse and lead to more severe problems.
Your dentist is urging you to have the root canal out of concern for your future health. Once the infection is taken care of, making sure your tooth is restored will be a relatively easy job.
Signs That You Need a Root Canal
There are a number of signs indicating the need for a root canal. Your dentist is aware of all of them. To be positive, your dentist ordered X-rays that revealed the presence of the infection. As a result, the dentist chose to talk with you about undergoing the procedure. Those signs include ongoing pain, tooth discoloration, and swollen gums.
Keep in mind that these signs may also apply to other types of dental issues. That’s why ordering the X-ray is so important. If the outcome indicates there’s a problem other than an infection in the pulp of the root, the dentist likely will opt for an alternative treatment.
Preparing For a Root Canal
Before undergoing a root canal, your dentist is likely to provide some instructions on what to do prior to the procedure. This may include things like ceasing the use of certain medications or supplements a day or two before the root canal. This is especially true if you take anything that might thin the blood or increase the effects of any sedation that you receive.
You will be advised to avoid the use of alcohol or tobacco for at least a full day before the procedure. When it comes to eating, there are usually no limitations on what you can consume the day before. It’s best not to eat in the hours leading up to the procedure. You also want to brush your teeth just as you would any other day.
Sedation and Your Root Canal
You are likely to receive some type of sedation. This is in addition to deadening the gum around the tooth. The type of sedation will vary and may be based in part on what the dentist knows about your general health.
The goal of using sedation is to provide you with the greatest degree of comfort possible. In most cases, you will not be unconscious during the procedure. What you will be is somewhat fuzzy with the passage of time. The dentist may use oral medication to sedate you, or it’s possible that you will receive nitrous oxide. There are even cases when some type of IV sedation is used. Your dentist will go over all the options and help you choose the one that’s best in your case.
Understanding What Happens During The Root Canal
The procedure itself is straightforward. You will receive sedation first, along with a shot to deaden the gum around the tooth. Once that’s done, the dental team will proceed to access the root of the infected tooth.
After reaching the infected pulp, the tissue is removed. Care is taken to ensure that all of the pulp is no longer present. The remainder of the tooth interior is checked for additional damage. If there is any, it’s addressed before moving on to the next step. When everything is cleaned and there are no signs of further problems, the tooth is filled and a temporary crown is put in place.
The Minutes After the Procedure
As with any type of procedure where sedation is used, you will be monitored for a time. The goal is two-fold: to ensure that the effects of the sedation have worn off enough for you to leave the dental office (under the care of whoever will be taking you home) and that there are no signs indicating that some issue with the tooth as arisen.
How long will you remain at the dental office? The time frame can vary, but a half-hour is typically the average. Before you leave, the staff will talk with the person who is taking you home and go over some basic tips that will help you care for the tooth in the days to come. They will also be provided in written form so you can review them later.
Discomfort After a Root Canal
As the deadening and the sedation wear off, you may have some discomfort. This is normal and not something to be concerned about. Typically, using an over-the-counter pain reliever that does not thin the blood will be all that you need. Take the medication as recommended by the dentist.
In some cases, there may be more pain. If so, the dentist can prescribe a prescription pain reliever. Remember to follow the usage instructions for the letter. You’re likely to find that you don’t need anything for the pain by the second or third day.
Care After the Root Canal
There will be some guidelines for care once the root canal is over. For example, you will need to be careful about chewing for a short time. It’s not unusual for the dentist to recommend that you keep to soft foods for a day or two. In terms of beverages, something at room temperature rather than hot or cold is a good idea. Even then, use a straw as often as possible.
Continue to brush your teeth as you would normally. It’s fine if you want to be a little careful around the tooth itself. You can also use mouthwash if you like. Keeping the mouth relatively free of bacteria will ensure that the healing moves forward in a timely manner.
Going Back to the Dentist
There are usually three visits associated with a root canal. The first is when you are diagnosed and plans are made for the procedure. Next, you go in for the procedure itself. Last, you return for one more visit and undergo an examination and fitting of the permanent crown.
Of the three, the final visit is likely to be the shortest one. Assuming there are no signs of issues, you do not report any discomfort, and the crown fits on the tooth properly, you are done. There will be no need to return unless something happens with the crown.
Insurance and Your Root Canal
Root canals are not considered cosmetic treatments and are usually covered in dental insurance plans. Even the costs of crowns are usually covered since they are seen as preventive measures designed to avoid more damage to the tooth. While you will be responsible for any co-pays or deductibles that apply, the insurance is likely to cover the bulk of the cost.
To be sure, have a word with a representative of your dental insurance provider. You will quickly learn if there is coverage, and how much of the cost will be covered. This will make it all the easier to make arrangements to take care of the remaining balance.
Remember that an infection in a tooth will not go away. While you may be able to do something that stems from the pain for a time, the damage will continue to get worse. See your dentist and find out if a root canal is needed. If so, don’t put it off; have it done as soon as you can. In the long run, you’ll be glad that you did.