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What Is a Root Canal? How Do You Treat It?

Having a hard time chewing __Sunrise Dental | Chapel Hill | Durham | Raleigh | Cary, NC
The two scariest words to hear in a dentist office might be “root canal.” We wish that wasn’t the case. Root canal treatments have a reputation for being painful when their purpose is to relieve pain. It’s too bad. A version of this procedure has been so beneficial to so many people for centuries (really, centuries). Root canals have become a metaphor for something unpleasant. We promise we aren’t trying to be political, but even President Obama did this one of his State of the Union addresses. He referred to a particular policy as being “about as popular as a root canal.” That might have been true. We just wish root canal treatments got more of the respect they deserve. At Sunrise Dental, we have seen how this procedure changes our patients lives for the better. Hopefully, you won’t ever need one, but if you do, you’ll be glad that our dentist office can be found in Cary, Chapel Hill, Durham, and Raleigh. What A Root Canal Is In everyday language, root canal is used as shorthand for what we call a root canal treatment. We will explain more about the procedure in a moment. For now, we want to explain what root canals are. As you already know, a canal is an opening. The Panama Canal and the Suez Canal are both famous examples of these kinds of openings that allow ships to pass from one waterway to the next. The roots of your teeth are the “legs” that stick out from the bottom of the teeth. Like the roots of a tree, the roots of your teeth help to hold them in place. Therefore, you’ve probably figured out that root canals are openings in the roots of your teeth. These openings serve a purpose. they allow blood vessels and nerves to enter your teeth. The blood vessels bring nutrients to your teeth. When everything is all right, you don’t usually notice your nerves. When there is a problem, your nerves can play an important role in alerting you that something should be done. The root canal also contains pulp. This is a soft connective tissue that can be found in the pulp chambers, which are the innermost parts of your teeth. Risk Factors & Symptoms Your risk factors for needing a root canal are primarily things that you can control. Poor oral hygiene increases your risk for tooth decay and gum disease, both of which can lead to an infected tooth if they are not treated. The other big risk factor is your diet. If you eat too many sugary foods and drinks, then you are increasing your odds of developing cavities. The bacteria that cause gum disease and tooth decay lives inside your mouth, and this bacteria can attack your teeth from the crown or the root. If you don’t take steps to stop the progress of the bacteria (such as getting a dental filling or receiving periodontal treatment), it can reach the pulp. When this happens, the pulp becomes infected and inflamed. You may notice one or more of the following symptoms: ◼︎ Pain when chewing with your infected tooth ◼︎ A persistent toothache ◼︎ Increased sensitivity to heat, cold, and sweets ◼︎ Swelling in your jaw, face, or neck ◼︎ A sudden rush of foul-tasting and salty fluid ◼︎ A fever Please call the nearest Sunrise Dental to make an appointment as soon as possible if you suspect that you may have an infected tooth. Treatment Procedure To alleviate the pain and other problems caused by your infected tooth, we need to remove the inflamed pulp from your tooth. We want this to be as pain-free as possible for you. At a minimum, we can give you an anesthetic to numb your tooth and the surrounding tissue. We also offer sedation dentistry if you prefer. Both nitrous oxide or oral sedation will ensure that you don’t feel anything during the treatment. After removing the infected pulp, nerves, and blood vessels, we will refill your tooth with gutta percha, a rubbery material that reduces your risk of another infection. After we seal your tooth with a filling or dental crown, your pain will fade and your tooth will be restored to its natural appearance. Don’t Take Chances A tooth infection is not something to ignore. In addition to the pain, the infection can spread to another part of your mouth and put other teeth at risk. We would rather you keep as many teeth as possible, which is why we encourage you to call or use our online form to make an appointment any of our four dentist offices in the Research Triangle. When all is said and done, you may be celebrating the benefits of a root canal, too.