Dental Care

Root Canal Procedures

Maybe you already have a basic knowledge of root canal procedures and you've read about the process of tooth decay.

Here we will provide you with more in depth knowledge about what to expect if you're scheduled to sit in the chair.

Who's the Doctor?

Root canals can be performed by most dentists.  However, your dentist might choose to refer you to specialist. 

This isn't because your dentist has a DDS credential after his name rather than a DMD.  The two degrees are largely similar; there is almost no difference between the training for these two types of dentists.

However, your dentist might refer you to an endodontist.  This word comes from root words meaning "inside tooth," and the endodontist specializes in performing root canals as well as repairing tooth trauma. 

Whether you go to a dentist or an endodontist, we'll just use the word "dentist" in the remainder of this article.

Root Canal Procedures  and Antibiotic Therapy

Expect your dentist to prescribe three to seven days' worth of antibiotics prior to your root canal procedures.  If your tooth was infected and pus accumulated around its roots, your gum tissues might be highly acidic and impervious to numbing agents like Novocain. 

It's also possible that he will tell you to take a pain reliever that contains ibuprofen.  Follow his instructions even if you don't feel much pain, because ibuprofen contains non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication that will reduce the swelling -a key point for obtaining success with your procedure!

The Rubber Dam

The next part of your root canal procedures actually begins in the dentist's chair with the application of a rubber dam to your mouth.

You might envision this to be a rubber block to bite down on so that you can bear the pain, but it's nothing of the sort!  It is a thin square of rubber material that the dentist stretches or applies over your mouth. 

It allows him to isolate your tooth, and through the use of strategically applied clamps only the tooth that needs treatment will be accessible. 

This protects it from contamination by germs or even by your own saliva during the procedure. 

It also prevents you from accidentally swallowing anything that the dentist is using during the procedure. 

Many patients feel unhappy about feeling restricted by the dam, but it's for your own protection.

Drilling the Tooth

Patients hate this part most of their root canal procedures.  But the fact is that today's dental drills -more correctly called dental handpieces- achieve intensely high speeds of approximately 400,000 rpm's, which drill into a tooth within seconds. 

Compare that to tools utilized centuries ago, which maxed out at 15 rpm's!

The dentist makes an access cavity into your tooth:  On back teeth, he gains entry through the top chewing surfaces of the tooth. 

If he's working on a front tooth, he approaches it through the tooth's back side. 

Root Canal Procedures  - Pulpectomy

Next, the dentist cleans out the infected nerve tissue within the tooth.  This is called a pulpectomy

The goal is to remove all affected tissues, which could include bacteria and toxins as well as any debris which has accumulated there. 

He removes these tissues from the chamber of the tooth above the gum line through the ends of the tooth roots, below the gums.

Next he makes the interior of the tooth wider and evenly shaped.  Finally, he will fill it with a type of dental cement.

During this part of your root canal, the dentist utilizes a series of dental files.  They resemble seamstress pins, but their surfaces are rough so that they can do their job.  He will apply them up and down in your tooth, using a twisting motion, to clean out all debris.  As he works each new dental file used will have a slightly wider diameter.

Throughout all of this, your dentist irrigates your tooth carefully.  You will not be aware of the irrigation, since your mouth will not be flooded with fluid; this is a minute process that bathes the interior of your tooth with a disinfecting agent like sodium hypochlorite. 

The part of the root canal procedures that you might really dread is when the dentist seemingly stops work for a minute to take an x-ray.  

He has to be careful to clean the entire length of your tooth root but not beyond. For this purpose he may leave a dental file placed within your tooth so that the x-ray shows him the depth he has reached. 

Reputation Versus Reality

But this dread is strictly based on most patients' psychological fear of the entire root canal process.  People talk about root canal procedures as if they were they most painful process known. 

Once the dentist begins the process, the restriction from the rubber dam, the high-pitched sound of the drill, and the knowledge of tiny instruments placed in your mouth work together to produce the uneasy feeling you have. 

The truth is that the pain of your infected tooth is worse than anything you will experience during a root canal. 

Some Final Root Canal Procedures

Once this part is over, your dentist will use miniscule paper cones-called "points" to literally dry out the interior of your tooth, and then he'll fill it back up. 

The worst is over.  And you'll be able to tell your family, "It was nothing!"


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