A root canal is a dental procedure used to preserve a tooth that has become infected. The root canal is the area in the center of the tooth where the nerve and pulp are located. When these become infected, a root canal procedure is performed to remove the infected tissue and seal the area.
For adult teeth, the nerve is not necessary for the health of the tooth. The tooth itself is unaffected by the removal of the nerve and pulp. By removing the infected material, the spread of the infection is stopped and the tooth can be saved. If left untreated, the infection will spread to nearby tissue and cause more serious problems such as an abscess and loss of the tooth.
Root canals have earned a reputation for being painful and uncomfortable. In the past, this may have been true but due to improvements in anesthetic injection technique and the development of sedation dentistry, a root canal should not be any more uncomfortable than any other dental procedure such as a filling.
Part of the problem was that the presence of the infection makes the tooth and the area around the tooth a little more sensitive. In addition, the infection reduces the effectiveness of the anesthetic. Dentists have learned to give the anesthetic a little more time to work and to give the patient additional anesthetic if the numbing is incomplete.
In addition, anxiety about pain increases sensitivity to pain. Patients who are anxious about the procedure are likely to have heightened sensitivity to pain. Dentists now know to use sedatives when appropriate to help patients relax and to reduce pain sensitivity. It is normal for the tooth to be sore for a few days after the root canal. This discomfort can usually be controlled by over the counter pain relievers.
Your root canal should be a comfortable and pain free dental experience. If you experience pain or discomfort during the procedure, be sure to make your dentist aware of the problem so that he or she can take appropriate action to relieve the pain.
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