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510 N. Washington St, Suite 301, Falls Church, VA 22046

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Uncover the Truth About Root Canal Treatment

Endodontic therapy, commonly called a root canal, was first performed in 1766 when antibiotics, analgesics, and modern dental equipment were centuries into the future. Unsurprisingly, at the time, root canals developed a reputation for being exceedingly painful and, to some, terrifying. But is this reputation justified? Although the procedure may have been painful in the past, advances in dentistry and pain medication have rendered the procedure relatively painless these days. If your dentist has recommended a root canal for a problematic tooth, the following information may reassure you about the process and the necessity for it.

Reasons for Getting a Root Canal to Repair a Damaged Tooth

Root canals are usually recommended when the tooth’s interior, called the root or pulp, becomes infected or damaged. Often, a root canal is the only way to save a tooth. When the problem is addressed quickly, your dentist can probably save your tooth, and you won’t need an extraction and a bridge or an implant. Otherwise, the tooth may need to come out, which will be more painful. In addition, if your tooth becomes abscessed, it can adversely affect your overall health and, in some cases, can be fatal, so don’t ignore an infected tooth.

What Do Patients Need to Know About Getting a Root Canal Treatment?

Most people are apprehensive when going to the dentist, so they may forget some of the questions they had. The following list may help you with the questions you need to ask before getting a root canal:

  1. Why do you consider me a good candidate for this procedure?
  2. What level of pain will I experience during, and after the procedure?
  3. Why is a root canal a better treatment for this problem?
  4. What should I expect during the root canal procedure?
  5. What timeframe should I expect from start to finish?
  6. What anesthesia do you recommend and why?
  7. What are the risks?
  8. What’s the overall cost of the procedure?
  9. What percentage of the cost will my insurance cover?
  10. Will my tooth be weaker after the procedure?

What Symptoms Might Indicate That I Need to Get Root Canal Treatment?

Many times, people are unaware that there’s a problem with a tooth. However, if you notice any of the following, you should schedule a dental appointment without delay because the symptoms below can indicate the need for a root canal:

  • Dark, discolored areas in your gums or teeth
  • Swollen, red, or inflamed gums
  • Persistent sensitivity to temperature or temperature changes
  • Persistent or severe tooth pain
  • Small bump close to a painful tooth
  • Sensitive or sore gums and teeth
  • Severe decay or infection

If you notice one or more of these symptoms, don’t procrastinate in making a dental appointment.

How Does the Typical Root Canal Procedure Go?

If a root canal is on your schedule in the future, the following information can explain what to expect. Although the exact procedure may vary slightly according to your unique needs, you can generally expect the following:
Detection: The first step in your root canal starts when you notice an infection and make a dental appointment.

  1. The start of the procedure: If your dental exam reveals that you have a damaged or infected tooth that can’t be repaired, then the next step will be your dentist numbing the area surrounding the tooth and drilling a hole in the tooth. The hole enables access to the infected or damaged area.
  2. Getting rid of the root: Next, your dentist will remove the pulp and clean and disinfect the area.
  3. Filling the spaces left behind: The tooth canals will be rinsed and then packed with a permanent filling, usually gutta-percha. This is necessary to protect the tooth.
  4. Restoration: After the canals are packed, the hole is sealed with a temporary filling, and your dentist will order your permanent crown.
  5. The crown: When your crown arrives, you’ll return to the office, and your dentist will affix the crown to the outside of the tooth with a very strong adhesive.

At this point, your root canal procedure will be complete except for your following the aftercare instructions to ensure you don’t develop a problem.

How Should I Take Care of My Tooth After a Root Canal?

There are always dos and don’ts after a procedure, and a root canal is no different. Follow your dentist’s instructions to the letter to minimize the possibility of problems. Any pressure or pain shouldn’t last for more than a few days and should be manageable with over-the-counter pain relievers. If that isn’t the case, be sure to notify your dentist.

You’ll be provided with aftercare instructions for at-home healing, and you’ll have the best results if you follow them exactly as prescribed. You may have additional instructions or fewer instructions, depending on your unique needs, but aftercare instructions for a root canal are generally the following.

Aftercare Instructions for All Patients

  • Avoid solid foods and anything that needs chewing until all the numbness has completely dissipated. Otherwise, you can bite your cheek or tongue but be completely unaware of it because the nerves will be numb.
  • Avoid biting or chewing near the treated tooth until it’s completely healed and your permanent crown has been installed.
    Follow your dentist’s instructions precisely, especially regarding your medication.
  • Maintain good oral hygiene habits for the rest of your teeth, but avoid the treated tooth until it has healed completely and your permanent crown has been installed.

If you experience any adverse reactions, call your dentist immediately, even if you think they’re minor. Adverse reactions include allergic reactions, excessive pain or pressure, nausea, swelling, or other symptoms.
When you’re dedicated to following your dentist’s instructions, your tooth will heal faster, and you’ll eliminate many problems that might otherwise occur.

Don’t Forget to Visit the Dentist Again!

The most important part of your root canal success is following up with your dentist to ensure that your permanent crown is installed. The crown is the protection you need for your tooth to remain healthy, so be sure to schedule the crown installation right after your root canal.

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(703) 988-6938

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