The Truth About Root Canal Treatment

The idea of a root canal makes a lot of people weak in the knees, but at Pleasant Hill Dental, we regularly perform root canals that have excellent results and that allow patients to regain their dental health while retaining their natural teeth. Understanding root canal treatment is essential in order to fully comprehend the value of this type of treatment for a tooth that’s infected, injured, or decayed. For most of our patients, understanding the truth about root canals makes them much more comfortable about undergoing the treatment itself.

What is a root canal?

A root canal is a dental procedure that’s performed to rescue and repair a tooth that has become badly decayed or infected. During a root canal procedure, the nerve tissue and pulp is removed from the inside of the tooth so that it can be thoroughly cleaned and then sealed. Opting out of a root canal treatment can have dire consequences: tissues around the tooth eventually become abscessed or infected and eventually, the patient loses the tooth and may also suffer from additional dental issues related to the infection in the mouth. Here we generally recommend that patients do everything they can to retain their natural teeth for as long as possible.

The term “root canal” is used to describe this procedure because the dentist makes a natural canal or cavity inside the tooth and then seals it up. In a normal, healthy tooth, this area that contains the pulp is soft and alive and it contains the nerves for that tooth. When the tooth becomes sick and decayed, it is the pulp that is affected most profoundly and the dentist is able to remove this part of the tooth in order to restore health while still allowing the patient to retain the outer, hard part of the tooth. So a root canal offers patients the best of both worlds. The patient is able to restore health to their mouth by removing the infection while still retaining the tooth.

How successful are root canal treatments?

There are a lot of myths circulating in pop culture about root canal treatments. A lot of patients think that they should avoid a root canal treatment at all costs, but in fact, research has shown that endodontic treatment (root canal treatment) is often successful and that this type of therapy is beneficial to patients in a number of ways. It’s unfortunate that so many misconceptions about root canals exist because patients who delay treatment for fear of having to get a root canal, or who choose tooth extraction instead of root canal treatment can have unfortunate consequences in the long run.

If your dentist has recommended that you get a root canal treatment and you’re weighing your options, consider the following three myths about root canals and remember, most root canal treatments that we perform at at our Pleasant Hill Dental Office are not only successful, but also they’re performed painlessly and they require very little downtime.

Myth 1: A root canal treatment can make things worse.

The idea that a root canal treatment can cause a patient to get sicker comes from a study that was performed nearly 100 years ago. The claim that root canals can make people sick has already been debunked because the study was poorly designed and it was based on a model of medicine that didn’t fully embrace our current view of science. Today, there is no valid, scientific research that links root canals to the development of diseases elsewhere in the body.

Myth 2: Root canal treatments are extremely painful.

In the early days of root canal treatments, it’s likely that the procedure was painful! Today, technology has been developed to make root canal treatments much more comfortable. At Pleasant Hill Dental, our patients generally experience about the same level of pain that they would expect during a routine cavity treatment. Most of the time, the pain caused by the infection is much worse than the pain caused by the treatment. When the dentist removes the infected pulp from the tooth, often there is an incredible relief. And all the while, the dentist provides pain management to keep the patient relaxed and comfortable.

Myth 3: It’s best to remove the tooth rather than having a root canal treatment.

We always strive to save the patient’s natural teeth. If you can retain your natural teeth, you’ll have a lot more options to work in terms of prosthetics and treatment for aging teeth as you get older. Artificial teeth simply can’t replace the appearance or functionality of natural teeth. For this reason, we always try to save the natural teeth. And because endodontic treatment tends to have a remarkably high success rate, there’s no reason to not try to save the natural tooth whenever possible. A tooth that’s been treated with a root canal can easily last a lifetime. And while a bridge or an implant can be put in place to replace a lost tooth, these procedures require additional time for treatment and they can cause problems to the surrounding teeth and tissues. A root canal allows the patient to retain their natural teeth and avoid any problems related to prosthetic devices.

When is a root canal needed?

If x-rays show that the pulp of your tooth has been damaged by an infection, you’ll need to have a root canal. When infected by bacteria, the pulp begins to die, which then allows the bacteria to propagate. Propagation of the bacteria, in turn, leads to pain and inevitably, the infection spreads. Symptoms of an infection of the pulp include pain while eating and drinking hot or cold foods/drinks, pain when biting or chewing, or a loose tooth. If the tooth isn’t treated, these symptoms progress until pus oozes from the affected tooth, the face or gums swell, or the tooth turns a darker color.

If you have any of these symptoms, it’s important to seek treatment right away. If you leave the tooth untreated, it can have serious consequences that will be much more difficult and much more expensive to remedy.

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