When most people think of root canals, they cringe because they think that the procedure is extremely painful. The truth is that a root canal procedure is really no more painful than having a cavity filled. The techniques used during root canal, along with the pain reduction options offered by most dentists, make a root canal a fairly pain-free and routine procedure.
What exactly is a root canal? The procedure removes the nerve and internal pulp of an infected or badly decayed tooth. Root canals are typically performed if the decay within a tooth becomes severe enough to cause damage to the pulp of the tooth or the nerve or there is an infection deep within the tooth, or abscess. The infection or abscess is the result of decay within the tooth that breaks down and forms bacteria. Once the nerve and pulp is removed, the inside of the tooth is cleaned up and then sealed.
When a root canal procedure is recommended, the first thing that needs to be done is to take an x-ray so that the nerve, pulp and surrounding area can be clearly seen by the dentist. Once that is completed and the dentist knows the extent of the damage and what needs to be removed, the patient can undergo the root canal procedure. A local anesthetic is typically administered to avoid any pain during the procedure. A rubber dam is then placed around the tooth to keep it dry while the procedure is performed.
During the procedure, the root and pulp of the tooth is removed and then the interior of the tooth is cleaned out using root canal files. None of this hurts because an anesthetic has been administered. The tooth is then sealed. If the area of decay was extensive, it may be recommended that further restorative treatments be performed at a later time to keep the tooth strong and to avoid any future problems.
One of the reasons that root canals have gotten such a reputation for being so painful is due to the fact that there is typically a great deal of pain experienced in a tooth prior to the procedure, which is the reason the root canal is needed in the first place. The procedure itself should be relatively pain-free and patients should experience little or no discomfort following a root canal treatment.