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Ballston Dental Arts
900 N Taylor Street, Suite 150, Arlington, VA 22203

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Uncover The Truth About Root Canal Treatment

Root canals save teeth. Before root canal therapy, dentists had to extract teeth that had an acute infection inside them. The pain was so great that most people were glad to get rid of the tooth, even if it ruined their smile and made it hard to chew. Today, you can keep the tooth once the infection is gone. A crown over the tooth will preserve your smile and your ability to chew. The tooth-saving procedure also isn’t painful. Root canals stop pain, not cause it.

Why Would I Need a Root Canal?

The inside of a tooth contains pulp, which is made up of nerves, tissues and blood vessels. There is pulp in a chamber of the crown of the tooth and inside canals that extend into the roots. The pulp can become infected by trauma, a failed filling in the tooth or deep decay. Once the pulp is infected, the infection can spread and damage your jawbone. It can also spread throughout your body, which can be dangerous. Root canal procedures remove the infected pulp and treat the canals, so the infection is gone.

What Are the Warning Signs I Need a Root Canal?

While the rare person has no symptoms, most people experience:

  • Constant pain which can be intense
  • Extreme tooth sensitivity to hot and cold foods and beverages
  • Swollen gums near the affected tooth
  • A pimple on the gum
  • The tooth darkens
  • Your cheek swells
  • A bad taste in your mouth that won’t go away
  • An abscess

If you’re experiencing these symptoms, find an affordable dentist and make an appointment right away. You could need a root canal or have another dental problem.

Ten FAQs About Root Canal Therapy

Your dentist will be glad to answer these questions if he or she determines you need root canal therapy:

  1. Is it possible to preserve my tooth with therapy?
  2. Will I experience any pain after the procedure?
  3. Do I have any other options?
  4. What’s involved in having a root canal procedure?
  5. How long is the entire process until I have my final restoration?
  6. Will I need a local anesthetic to have root canal therapy?
  7. What are the risks involved?
  8. What should I expect to pay for a root canal?
  9. Is root canal therapy covered by dental insurance?
  10. Will my tooth be fully functional after the treatment?

A Step-by-Step Guide to How Dentists Perform Root Canals

First, you’ll have a dental exam, including x-rays, to determine if you need a root canal. If you have a severe infection, your dentist may prescribe antibiotics for you to take before the procedure. Your dentist will also ask you about your medical history and medications you take. The actual procedure goes like this:

Step 1 – Numbing the Area

Your dentist will administer a local anesthetic via an injection. If you are anxious, discuss having nitrous oxide or an oral sedative with your dentist before your appointment. Don’t be alarmed if the local anesthetic takes longer to work than it usually does. Badly infected teeth take longer to become numb.

Step 2 – The Dental Dam

To keep the affected tooth in a sterile environment, your dentist will use a dental dam. This is just a thin sheet of vinyl or rubber, and it’s not uncomfortable.

Step 3 – Pulp Removal

Since the pulp is inside the tooth, your dentist will have to drill a small hole it your tooth to reach it. The hole will be on the chewing surface of back teeth or in the back of teeth in the front of your mouth. Your dentist will use specially designed dental files to remove the pulp. He or she will rinse the canals and then shape them to prepare for the filling. The canals are cleaned out again to make sure no bacteria remains.

Step 4 – Filling the Canals

Your dentist will use gutta-percha, a rubbery material, to fill the empty canals. Finally, he or she will seal the hole in your tooth with a temporary filling. You may also make an appointment for your final restoration, usually a crown, at this time.

Expect to spend between 30 and 90 minutes in the chair. The more roots a tooth has, the longer the procedure takes. Front teeth take the least amount of time and molars take the longest.

Will There Be Any Pain After My Root Canal?

Your tooth may feel tender for a few days after having a root canal. Your dentist will suggest an over-the-counter pain reliever, which should take care of any discomfort. If you have pain like you had before having the treatment, you should contact your dentist right away. Fortunately, the vast majority of root canals are highly successful at stopping pain.

What Should I Do Before and After Root Canal Therapy?

If your dentist prescribed antibiotics, take them as directed before your procedure. Eat a meal before having your tooth canal since your mouth will still be numb for a while afterward. You don’t want to bite your tongue. If you smoke, quit several days before the procedure so you’ll heal faster.

After your root canal and when you start eating again, try to avoid chewing with the tooth. It won’t be as strong as it once was until you have a crown protecting it. Don’t smoke for a few days afterward either. Tobacco use makes it more difficult for the body to heal. You can also rest for the remainder of the day after the procedure, even though most people feel well enough to go right back to school or work.

Why You’ll Need a Crown

In some cases, your dentist may say you’ll only need a filling or overlay. However, most people need a crown to restore the tooth’s structural integrity. Your affordable dentist can help you choose a beautiful crown.

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Ballston Dental Arts

900 N Taylor Street, Suite 150, Arlington, VA 22203

(703) 291-3111