What is a Root Canal and What are the Signs that you Need One

You’ve probably heard of a root canal, because they’re referenced when people are talking about something difficult or painful, and they pop up in dental jokes. Do you know what the term means? While you may be under the impression that a root canal is a form of torture, it is actually a special procedure that’s relatively simple and can often save a tooth.

The term “root canal” actually means two things. It may refer to the part of the tooth between the pulp and the roots. More commonly,  it’s a reference to the dental procedure used to relieve root canal pain by removing infected material. Nerves and blood vessels are contained in the root canals of teeth, and by removing a nerve in an infected tooth, a dentist can eliminate pain caused by infection or decay in the pulp. While many people assume that the root canal procedure is painful, it’s rarely more painful than a filling. The time leading up to the root canal, however, can cause a great deal of pain, stemming from several different causes.

  • Tooth decay penetrating the teeth can cause root canal pain.
  • Cracks or chips that damage the teeth can also be painful.
  • Disease in your mouth may cause decay or infection, compelling your dentist to recommend a root canal.

If you are experiencing extreme tooth pain when you eat, or sensitivity to hot and cold that lingers after you’ve removed whatever was hot or cold, you may need a root canal. Other signs that a root canal may be required include a small, pimple-like bump on the gums, darkening of the tooth, or tenderness or swelling in the gums near the painful tooth. If these symptoms are familiar, it may be time to talk to your dentist about a root canal.

Root canals are highly effective, and many teeth fixed using root canal therapy can last a lifetime. The procedure has a success rate higher than 95 percent and involves several steps.

  • First, the dentist takes an x-ray to determine exactly how much damage exists.
  • A local anesthetic will numb the area to prevent pain, and a rubber dam will be placed around the tooth to keep it dry.
  • The dentist will drill an access hole into the tooth and remove the damaged tissue and nerve.
  • After the infected material is removed, the tooth may be sealed or given a temporary filling.
  • To complete the tooth restoration, a crown or filling is placed.

At Park 56 Dental Group, we offer pediatric, prosthodontics, endodontics, oral surgery, Invisalign®, emergency, and sedation dentistry, all at the highest level of treatment. We serve the Midtown, Central Park, Upper East Side, Park Avenue, and all surrounding Manhattan and New York areas, with a patient-centered practice that has hours to fit your schedule. Schedule your complimentary consultation today by contacting us online or calling us at (212) 826-2322.

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