November 12, 2009
Contact PDA: (717) 234-5941
Painful Root Canals are a Thing of the Past
You’re visiting the dentist for what you think is a routine checkup and cleaning when he or she says you need a root canal. Though it’s a term you’ve probably heard before, now that you’re the one in the chair, you may have several questions and feel apprehensive about your upcoming procedure.
Patients have unnecessarily feared root canals for quite some time. The Pennsylvania Dental Association (PDA) wants to help answer patients’ questions and alleviate any anxiety the public may have surrounding this common procedure that is performed nearly 15 million times each year.
Root canal treatment is needed when a cavity gets too deep and infects the pulp, the soft tissue comprised of nerves, blood vessels and connective, fibrous tissue. During a root canal, an endodontist (a dentist who specializes in problems of the pulp) or general dentist drills out the cavity, just like when you have a cavity removed and filled. Only this time, he or she drills into the hollow center of the tooth and uses a special drill to remove the diseased pulp tissue. Once the pulp tissue is removed, the hollow spaces are then filled with a cement and plastic mixture used to seal and prevent future root infections. Left untreated, tooth decay, damage to the bone around the teeth, pain, swelling and even tooth loss can occur.
“It is very important to have a permanent filling and sometimes a crown placed over a tooth with recent root canal treatment,” said Dr. Bruce Terry, a PDA member and endodontist from Wayne. “If the tooth is not properly restored, it will get reinfected and the root canal treatment will have to be repeated.”
Most people fear that root canal treatment is painful, however, due to modern advances in dental technology, painful root canals are now a thing of the past. Dentists use lidocaine (a local anesthetic) to numb the area and help minimize any discomfort. Today’s rotary files, apex locators and digital radiographs make root canal treatment easier than ever. Tooth sensitivity after the procedure can be easily managed by over-the-counter pain relievers.
“Helping people is why I became an endodontist in the first place,” Dr. Terry said. “In the end, my favorite thing is to hear my patients say ‘Everything I’ve heard about root canals is a lie.’”
To maintain optimal oral health, PDA recommends brushing twice a day, flossing daily, eating nutritious foods and visiting the dentist every six months for a checkup and professional cleaning. Regular visits to the dentist also will help detect problems in their early stages.View more information about root canals.
About the Pennsylvania
Founded in 1868, the Pennsylvania Dental Association (PDA) is comprised of approximately 6,000 member dentists. It is a constituency of the American Dental Association (ADA), the largest and oldest national dental society in the world. PDA’s mission is to improve the public health, promote the art and science of dentistry and represent the interests of its member dentists and their patients. PDA is the voice of dentistry in Pennsylvania. Learn more about PDA.