Having A Root Canal Procedure: Should You Be Scared?

So, you’re on the books to have the dreaded root canal procedure. Are you suddenly feeling scared or anxious as the day approaches? If so, please know you are not alone.

The Basics
I won’t insult your intelligence by stating your root canal will be a fun walk in the park. However, it won’t be as bad as you think, and understanding the basics of the procedure should help lessen any anxiety.

You probably already know that a root canal is a treatment to repair and save a badly infected tooth, and is an alternative to having it removed. The term “root canal” basically refers to the cleaning of the canals within a tooth’s root. Decades ago, long before advanced dental techniques and local anesthetics came about, root canals were often very painful. Luckily for you, dentistry has come a long way, and this procedure is no longer as painful as it once was. (1)

The Procedure
The procedure itself consists of the removing of dead or dying nerve tissue and bacteria from the inside of a tooth. The steps, once explained, are simply and straight-forward.

The steps are:
• Numbing of the area with anesthetic injections. This will be inserted around the bad tooth by a needle, and may cause a stinging sensation which lasts typically only a few seconds.
• Next, the dentist drills off the top part of your tooth to expose the pulp. Pulp is made of nerves, blood vessels, and connective tissue, and is found inside the tooth where it runs along the jaw bone. Pulp supplies a tooth with blood, and is responsible for allowing you to feel sensations such as hot or cold. (2)
• Next, the infected pulp is removed with a special dentistry tool called a file. Then, the canals, or pathways, inside your tooth, are cleaned. Anti-bacterial medicines may be inserted in this area now to remove all germs and prevent increased infection.
• Lastly, the tooth is sealed with a soft, provisional material. Once filled, a tooth might be topped with a permanent crown.

After the procedure, antibiotics will likely be given to treat and ward off future infection.

The Bottom Line
After your root canal, minimal, but not debilitating, pain and soreness is expected. Over the counter anti-inflammatory meds, such as naproxen and ibuprofen, help ease the discomfort associated with recovery after this procedure. Unless unexpected complications arise, you should be able to return to work within 1 day after your operation. You will also be advised to schedule a follow-up exam with your dentist to ensure the infection in your tooth is completely gone. Dental x-rays will be taken for clear results.