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Everything You Need to Know About Root Canals

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It's a common misconception that root canals are painful. Unfortunately, that simple misconception keeps people from getting the dental work that they need. The fact is, root canals aren't painful at all—your dentist numbs the entire area before working on your tooth—and the procedure gets rid of any tooth pain that you have currently. Learn more about root canals before you dismiss the option completely.

Why Are Root Canals Needed?

When you have a deep infection in your tooth, an injury that damaged the tooth's root, or a large cavity, you need a root canal to save the tooth. If you don't have a root canal, your tooth is more likely to rot to the point that you'll lose the tooth completely.

What to Expect During a Root Canal

Root canals aren't typically completed in one sitting. You'll have to go to several dentist appointments to complete the process. During the first part of your root canal, your dentist will remove all of the infected pulp from your tooth with a small dental drill. Once the infection is removed, the dentist will flush your root canal to get the nerves out. Because the nerves are removed from the tooth completely, you shouldn't have any pain once the numbing agent wears off. It's common for dentists to leave a hole in the tooth for several days so that it dries out completely. However, you won't be able to see or feel the hole because your dentist will place a temporary crown over the tooth. Temporary crowns can fall off if you aren't careful, so try to avoid using that tooth to chew when you're eating.

Once your permanent crown is made, you'll return to your dentist's office to have the crown attached to your tooth. During this appointment, your dentist will remove the temporary crown and fill the space in your root canals with a rubber compound and sealer paste. This protects your root canals from excess saliva. Once the tooth is filled, your dentist will attach your permanent crown, which protects the tooth from any further damage.

Many people believe that their teeth will hurt or be more sensitive after a root canal, but that simply isn't true. The root-canal procedure removes the nerves from the problematic tooth, so you shouldn't feel anything at all. If you do feel pain after the procedure is complete, you need to make an appointment with your dentist as soon as possible. Your tooth could be fractured at the root, in which case it would need to be pulled.