Helpful Answers To Common Questions About Root Canals

If you've been experiencing nagging tooth pain or other troubling dental symptoms, you may need a root canal to correct the problem. Sometimes referred to as endodontic therapy, root canal surgery is performed to remove the infected pulp inside a tooth's root canal. Infection in the pulp is usually the result of a decayed or damaged tooth. You likely have a lot of questions about root canal procedures, and these answers to some of the most commonly asked questions can help you get the information that you're seeking.

How does the dentist determine that I need root canal surgery?

First, the dentist will take note of your symptoms to determine if you're a likely candidate for a root canal procedure. Surgery is often needed to treat root canals when patients are experiencing symptoms like:

  • Tenderness or intense pain from biting or chewing
  • Prolonged sensitivity when a tooth is exposed to hot or cold
  • Swollen and/or tender gums near the affected tooth
  • Pimple-like lesions on the gums
  • Darkening of a tooth
  • Pus drainage

If you have any of these symptoms, your dentist may take x-rays to examine the inside of a problematic tooth to see if the pulp is damaged. Heat or cold is sometimes applied to the tooth to see if the symptoms intensify. The dentist may also tap lightly on the tooth to determine if any additional sensitivity is felt by you. Once your symptoms have been considered and the additional diagnostic tests are complete, the dentist may then recommend a root canal treatment.

How is the surgery performed?

After the local anesthesia has been injected into the gum area of the affected tooth, the dentist or oral surgeon who's performing your surgery may use a dental dam to isolate the tooth so that it remains clean and dry throughout the procedure. A hole will be drilled at the top of the tooth to access the pulp and clean the inside of the root canal. Additional medication may also be applied to treat the infection. A temporary filling is then placed to seal the tooth and protect the root canal until a more permanent filling or crown can be added.

How long does the surgery take to complete?

A typical root canal treatment takes approximately 90 minutes to complete. If multiple root canals need to be treated, the dentist or oral surgeon may perform the surgeries during the same appointment or ask you to schedule future appointments.

What is the recovery period like?

You'll likely feel soreness and additional discomfort once the anesthesia has worn off, but you can resume some regular activities that are within your comfort range shortly after your procedure. Exercise and other physically strenuous activities, however, should be avoided for the first few days. The dentist or oral surgeon may advise you to rest as often as possible during the initial recovery period. After a period of 24 to 48 hours has passed following your surgery, you will likely notice a significant decrease in pain and discomfort and should be able to resume most normal activities without much difficulty.

Getting all the facts about root canal treatments can help you feel more confident about how to proceed with your treatment. Your dentist will help you decide if root canal surgery is right for you and give you additional information on what to expect. Contact a local dentist, such as John B Webster DDS, to learn more.