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
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.
more information about root canals.
About the Pennsylvania Dental Association
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.