Patients often put off dental work such as root canals for many reasons, one of the most common is being afraid of the recovery process. If you’re worried about having a root canal, it can help to know exactly what this procedure is, why it is needed, and how long it takes to recover.
Do I Need a Root Canal?
Tooth decay causes holes, or cavities, to form in the enamel of the tooth. These cavities allow bacteria to infect the tooth’s pulp — soft tissue inside the tooth that contains blood vessels, nerves, and connective tissue. Symptoms of an infected tooth can include:
- Tooth pain while chewing or biting
- Oversensitivity to cold or hot drinks
- Swollen or tender gums
- Discoloration of the tooth or gums
- Loose tooth
- Pus or drainage from the tooth
If you’ve been experiencing any of these symptoms, it’s important to see a dentist right away. If the infection is left untreated, the damage can become so extensive that the tooth will need to be removed. If the infection is diagnosed before the damage is too serious, the dentist may be able to save the tooth by performing a root canal procedure.
What Is a Root Canal Procedure?
A root canal is an endodontic procedure that removes the infected pulp from inside your tooth, preventing further damage to the tooth and gums. Patients realize several benefits from root canal therapy. Root canal procedures can:
- Ease the pain and other symptoms associated with an infected tooth
- Prevent the infection from spreading to other teeth
- Reduce the possibility of jawbone damage
- Save the undamaged portions of a tooth
Root canals are one of the most common surgical procedures. Millions of people undergo root canal surgery every year. The treatment is considered to be safe and effective, with success rates of up to 98%.
The Root Canal Procedure: What to Expect
Before the procedure, your dentist will take X-rays of the affected tooth to determine the extent of the damage and if a root canal is the correct treatment option. (If the damage is too severe, your only option may be a tooth extraction.) They’ll also be able to answer any questions you may have about the procedure.
The root canal procedure usually takes about 30 minutes to an hour to complete. However, it could take longer if the tooth has multiple roots.
Here are the steps in a root canal procedure:
- The dentist administers a local anesthesia to numb the infected tooth and the surrounding gums. He may also give you a sedative to help you relax if you experience dental anxiety.
- A small rubber dental dam will be placed over the area that’s going to be treated, isolating the tooth and keeping it dry during the procedure.
- A small opening called an “access hole” will be drilled in the crown of the tooth, allowing your dentist to access the pulp inside.
- Special dental instruments are used to remove the infected pulp material from inside the tooth.
- Once the material has been removed, the dentist will clean, shape, and disinfect the pulp chamber and root canals. A flexible, rubbery dental material called gutta-percha will be used to fill the empty canals.
- The tooth will be sealed with a temporary dental filling to protect it until the final restoration is ready to be placed.
A final restoration, such as a crown, will be placed on top of the tooth to restore the appearance and function of the tooth. Crowns need to be custom made, and it may be a week or two until it’s ready to be placed. Once the crown has been prepared, the temporary filling will be removed and the permanent restoration will be put into place.
How Long Does It Take to Recover from a Root Canal Procedure?
In most cases, it takes less than a week to fully recover from a root canal procedure. The mild discomfort and pain can usually be managed by over-the-counter pain medications. If you experience pain or discomfort for more than a week, contact your dentist.
Most people are able to return to work or school the day after the procedure.
You can eat after your root canal, but it’s best to stick with softer foods until the final restoration is placed. Try to avoid placing any pressure on the treated tooth. Avoid eating sugary, starchy, or acidic foods and drinks.
Don’t smoke or drink alcohol after the procedure; it can interfere with the healing process.
Avoiding Root Canals by Preventing Tooth Decay
The best way to avoid a root canal procedure is to take preventative steps to reduce the risk of tooth decay. This includes:
- Brushing and flossing at least twice a day
- Regular dental checkups and professional teeth cleaning
- Avoiding sugary, starchy, or acidic foods and drinks
- Keeping your mouth hydrated
- Not smoking
Contact The Dental Space for All of Your Family Dental Care Needs in San Marcos, TX
If you are experiencing tooth pain in San Marcos, TX, it’s important to schedule an appointment at The Dental Space as soon as possible. Left untreated, the causes of tooth pain can lead to tooth loss.
The Dental Space is a San Marcos, TX family dentist clinic that provides a full spectrum of family dental services, including checkups and cleanings, extractions, teeth whitening, crowns, fillings, and more. We want you and your family to have the brightest and healthiest smile possible. We serve patients of all ages, from infants as young as six months to seniors 65 and over. New patients are always welcome.
Contact us through our website or call us at 512-667-9770 to schedule an appointment today. The Dental Space is located here in San Marcos, TX at 1101 Thorpe Ln, Suite 101, just off IH 35 in the Springtown Center Shopping Mall. We accept most PPO plans, Medicaid, and CHIP and provide patients with a wide range of payment options.