Root Canal - Describe Your Experience

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What happens during a root canal procedure?

To confirm that a tooth does indeed require root canal treatment, the dentist will take an X-ray of the root and may perform a pulp test. Most pulp tests involve placing a cold stimulus on the tooth to check for a healthy response. Many teeth will be tested to compare the responses. Then the root canal will be completed in either one or two appointments. The dentist will determine whether the root canal will be treated in one or two appointments based on the size and duration of an abscess and other factors. A tooth is likely to be treated in two appointments if it is getting a retreatment (being treated a second time). An endodontist, and some general dentists, will often perform root canal treatment using a microscope that attaches to the wall and hangs over the patient's mouth. This provides magnification that helps the treatment provider locate and treat all the necessary anatomy inside the tooth.

Before starting the root canal, the dentist will numb the tooth with local anesthesia (such as lidocaine) to ensure patient comfort. When the tooth has become sufficiently numb, the dentist will place a rubber dam over the tooth. The rubber dam consists of a metal clamp that holds a latex sheet in place around the tooth so it can remain clean and isolated from saliva and contaminants.

An opening is made through the top of the tooth and the pulp is removed from the chamber and canals. The canals are then cleaned with sodium hypochlorite or another disinfecting solution. The canals are then shaped with a series of files of increasing diameter to make sure all of the infected tooth structure is removed and there is room for an adequate root canal filling. A series of X-rays will be taken throughout the procedure to make sure the files are reaching the end of the root and all the canals are being adequately cleaned and shaped.

If the root canal is to be completed in two appointments, the dentist will place medicine like calcium hydroxide down the canal to help kill the bacteria at the end of the root and may prescribe an antibiotic to help combat the infection. A temporary filling will be placed to seal the opening in the tooth and a second appointment will be made for a week later or more. If the tooth is being treated in one appointment, the dentist will skip this part and go right to filling the root canal.

When the root canal is to be filled, the dentist will again numb the tooth, place a rubber dam, and remove the temporary filling material. The canals are filled with a rubber-like material called gutta percha surrounded by a sealing paste. If an endodontist has performed the root canal, a temporary filling will be placed in the opening and a general dentist will place the permanent filling. After the root canal is completed, the tooth will likely need a crown to protect it from fracturing in the future. A post may be placed down one of the canals to provide an anchor for the filling and the tooth will be built up with a permanent filling. The dentist may choose to do the crown immediately, or may wait a brief period of time to make sure the tooth is free of pain before continuing with the crown.

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See what others are saying

Comment from: Jack R., 55-64 Male (Patient) Published: February 19

Recently, I had a root canal for the very first time in my life. The tooth was cracked some time ago, but I chose to ignore it. A mistake, but I never had any pain on that tooth. After careful consideration, I made the decision to go see a dentist. He examined the tooth along with the rest of my teeth and laid out a plan to get everything that needed to be done. Well, I am not afraid of dentist or pain, but I had not been to one in a very long time. So, I was nervous. Perhaps apprehensive, but I went. Once he numbed me up, after 15 minutes or so, he started the procedure. Aside from just a few small sensations, I felt pretty good. He had to do a filling first and clean the area up a little, but once he was done and the nerve was out, nothing after that. Now, he made the temporary crown. This took longer than the root canal itself. However, no pain. The whole affair lasted about 2 hours, total time. After the procedure, I was very numb, but no pain at all. Once the numbing shot wore off, again, no pain. Except my tongue which I accidently bit while taking the bite impression. I took one 800 Motrin. That's it. Plus one 4 mg steroid pill. Which I later regretted because that made me very hungry. Honestly folks, no two people will have the same experiences. All I can say is trust your gut instincts. Do not be afraid. Cooperate with the dentist while he or she is doing the procedure. It really makes a difference. Not all dentist are good or even great. Mine was excellent. I had no real pain during or after the root canal. I have a very high tolerance for pain, but that can be a good thing or a bad thing. Just depends. The only thing to fear is fear itself.

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Comment from: KathrynG, 55-64 Female (Patient) Published: April 19

I had a tooth break and went to the dentist. He said I needed a root canal on two other teeth, not the one that originally broke. I had root canals done on both teeth the same day. I went home with prescribed antibiotics and I felt fine at first. The next day I started to notice a little swelling, and it just got worse. The procedure was performed Thursday and by Friday night my face was huge. The swelling was so severe I could not see out of one eye. The pain was terrible. I called the dentist and did not hear back until Monday. The receptionist was terrible. She was defensive and not at all sympathetic, she actually said they did everything right. When I talked to the dentist, he prescribed a new antibiotic. I am taking it now. However, the whole process was terribly unpleasant and expensive. There has to be a better way.

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