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How do I know when I need a root canal?

Answer: a) When you have extreme temperature sensitivity to either cold, warm, or hot things in your mouth, b) When you have facial swelling or pressure pain to touch on the tooth, c) When there is a change in color to the tooth, d) When you see a pimple in the gums that was not there before, e) When your dentist says that he or she sees a dark spot on the X-ray of the tooth, and f) when you get a new filling or an old filling replaced and the tooth does not feel right for a while.

What is a root canal?

Answer: First of all, the word Root Canal seems to be a feared word and conjures up a lot of bad thoughts in people’s mind. So let us allay all fears of the unknown to rest. The word Root Canal is a description of the anatomy inside of the roots of teeth. Just like the Panama Canal is a water passage between the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean, a root canal is a passage inside of the roots of teeth. All teeth are anchored into the bone by 1 to sometimes 5 roots. In the canal are blood vessels, such as veins, and arteries that keep the tooth alive and sensory nerve tissues. When these elements, are infected by bacteria due to a deep cavity, they need to be removed from the canals. Small files are used to clean the inside walls of the canals along with use of an irrigating liquid such as bleach and hydrogen peroxide to rinse out all debris. Once cleaning is accomplished in the entire canal, a rubbery like material is used to fill in the canal space to act as an insulator or cushion for the roots. A final temporary filling is then placed in the hole of the tooth which will be replaced after 2 weeks by the general dentist. So a root canal is simply an “internal root cleansing” procedure.

Will I be in pain and can I eat afterwards?

Answer: Yes, in most cases people do have discomfort after the procedure is done. This ache can be controlled by taking Advil, Aleve, Ibuprofen, or Tylenol for those who cannot take a Non-Steroidal Anti-inflammatory Drug (NSAIDS). In cases that are infected with swelling, people do take antibiotics as well as the pain reducing medications. Discomfort is expected to last a few days with lessening of degree with each passing day. Eating is recommended; however, chewing on the side of the root canal is to be avoided for a few days. Just like if foot surgery was done, one does not try to walk on it immediately. Same goes for a treated tooth.

Is this tooth complete after the root canal?

Answer: No, it is not done. There are three steps involved. First is the internal cleansing. Second, after 2 weeks when there is absolutely no more discomfort the general dentist needs to remove the temporary filling and put a permanent filling in the tooth. Sometimes a small pin, also known as a post, needs to be placed. Third, a crown is made for the tooth for protection from fracture. Lastly, every 6 months a reevaluation is needed with the endodontist to assure that healing is complete and the infection does not reoccur.