What is a Root Canal and How Can I Avoid One?

What is a Root Canal and How Can I Avoid One?
Posted in dental Posted on September 10, 2018

In your regular dental visits, you may have heard the term root canal thrown around – either the dentist is recommending one for you or that you should take precautions to avoid one.

The name of the procedure doesn’t exactly describe what is taking place and what will happen during it, so here is some more detailed information on what will happen should you need to have a root canal performed on one of your teeth.

Why do I need one?

Every tooth has at least one root securing it in place. Sometimes infections occur within at least one of these canals of these roots, which eventually cause the roots to effectively die. These infections can happen for a number of reasons: an injury (like an impact) to the tooth, an untreated cavity that continues to allow bacteria into the pulp of the tooth or even an air pocket developing under a previously filled-in cavity. If any of these things happen, a root canal can be a good option for saving the tooth without having to remove it altogether. 

What is a Root Canal?

A root canal is almost like a very large, deep filling being placed in your tooth. Your regular dentist typically performs it but there are specialists that perform only root canals should you feel more comfortable. The dentist will numb the affected area of your mouth – some dentists even offer sleep dentistry to make it a little more comfortable for you.

Your dentist will drill into your tooth, as he or she would for a cavity, and create an opening in your tooth. Next, tiny files will be used to file out the pulp in the canals of your teeth and remove the infected/diseased areas of the canals. Further, the dentist will irrigate the area to make sure all the “dead” parts of the tooth are out and to ensure no more infection will grow once the procedure is complete.

Once the dentist is sure all infection is cleared, the chambers – or canals – will be filled with a polymer kind of solution. Effectively this replaces what the canals had before, but the material is no longer infected. After that, the tooth is filled with a temporary filling. This is done for a couple of reasons: to close in the tooth while you wait for the permanent crown but also to make sure there isn’t any further infection as it will be much easier to fix the root canal without a crown on it.

Then – once a few weeks have passed, or at the discretion of your dentist – a permanent crown will be placed over the tooth.

How can I avoid one needing a root canal?

Sometimes a root canal is outside of our control: we brush twice daily, floss and make sure to care for our teeth but yet we still have to have one done. Sometimes genetics play a factor in this – some people are prone to having less enamel or fillings don’t hold as well in their teeth.

Some of this is part of the routine: if you don’t take care of your teeth, they will wear away over time. The best way to avoid a root canal is to ensure you take good care of your teeth: brush twice daily, floss, wear a night guard if you are prone to grinding your teeth and wearing a guard while playing sports to avoid injury or impact to your teeth.

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