The Surprising Truth About Root Canals

by | Sep 30, 2020 | Dental Advice, Dental Health

The root canal is a classic situation many dread when they picture the dentist.

Commonly associated with long, laborious procedures and terrible patient pain, you might be surprised to learn that today’s root canal treatments are actually not that much different from most filling procedures.

In this blog post, we’ll review the root canal procedure, some common causes, and what to expect from a root canal.

What is a root canal?

A root canal is a treatment for serious tooth infections or tooth injuries. The procedure removes bacteria from the roots of an infected tooth. Then, the tooth is filled and resealed. Root canals are used to treat infection and prevent re-infection.

They’re also used to save a natural tooth from dying or being extracted.

A root canal relieves pain and helps the tooth become healthy again.

What are signs that I might need a root canal?

  • Persistent toothache
  • Tooth sensitivity that won’t go away 
  • Sensitivity to heat or cold 
  • A cracked or chipped tooth
  • Swollen gums 
  • Dark discoloration of the teeth or gum area near the tooth 
  • Swelling in your gums or in your face

Causes of serious tooth infections

First, let’s consider the basic anatomy of a tooth. For today’s purposes, we’ll talk about 3 basic layers of your teeth: the enamel, the dentin, and the pulp.

Enamel is the tough protective outer layer that wraps around our teeth. It protects the tooth from bacteria, but over time, it becomes weaker when plaque and tartar forms on it to break it down.

This process is called tooth decay.

The dentin of a tooth is the middle layer of the tooth, consisting of hard, porous material. When enamel wears away, it can lead to tooth sensitivity, as the exposed dentin allows food, beverage, and bacteria to interact with the nerves and tissue.

Finally, the inner layer is called the pulp or the pulp chamber. It’s the soft tissue at the center of your teeth containing nerves and other sensitive tissue. The root canals of a tooth are connected all the way from the pulp chamber to the bottom of the tooth’s root.

When the pulp of a tooth becomes infected, the tooth is considered severely infected and requires a root canal to remove the bacteria and save the tooth from further decay. If the tooth cannot be saved, it will have to be extracted to prevent further damage to the surrounding teeth.

Cavities are a common beginning to what later ends in a root canal treatment. They might start off small, but if left untreated, the decay will seep deeper into the tooth, breaking through the barriers until it reaches and infects the pulp.

Bacteria can also do this through tooth cracks, chips, or injuries to the tooth. That’s why it’s important you call a dentist right away after you crack a tooth on the biscotti at your friend’s holiday party, or after chipping a tooth in a pick-up game of soccer. The sooner you can get it checked out by your dentist, the better.

The root canal procedure

Here’s how a root canal works here at our Rogue Valley office: 

  1. Dr. Catt will thoroughly explain the root canal procedure to you 
  2. Then, he’ll take an x-ray of the tooth. Specifically, Dr. Catt will look at the roots of the tooth and look for any sign the infection has spread 
  3. To make you more comfortable, he’ll apply a local anesthesia to the tooth and surrounding area. Then, he’ll carefully remove all signs of decay and infection in the tooth
  4. Following this, he’ll seal and fill the remaining tooth 
  5. After you’ve had time to heal, we’ll make a model of your mouth to create a crown that’s a custom fit to you 
  6. When your crown is ready, Dr. Catt will bond it securely into place and you’ll be all set! 

For more difficult procedures, Dr. Catt may refer you to a trusted endodontist. An endodontist is a dentist who specializes in diagnosing and treating infections in the interior of the tooth, including root canals.

But if you’ve grown accustomed to Dr. Catt’s gentle and compassionate approach and are worried about seeing a specialist, know this: our referral will have the same kind and careful approach our Rogue Valley team prides itself on. They will be committed to your care and comfort the whole way through.

Contact us with any questions or to schedule your root canal treatment today!

More about dental crowns

Not every root canal will require a dental crown, but most will. 

Dental crowns are an easy and natural-looking way to add strength and stability to a damaged tooth. A crown fits over the top of a damaged tooth, allowing you to chew and bite normally. And because they aren’t an actual, natural tooth, they are resistant to staining or chipping in the future. Bonus! 

The dental crown procedure is relatively simple, consisting of the following steps: 

  • Step 1 – We’ll prepare the surface of your tooth for a crown 
  • Step 2 – Dr. Catt will use a iTero Digital Scanner to create a highly accurate 3D image of your mouth. He will use this to help render a super precise crown for your tooth. 
  • Step 3 – When your crown is ready, we’ll ask you to come back to the office to have it securely fitted in place. You’re all done! 

If you need a crown quickly, our Medford office offers next day crowns. Contact us to learn more! 

What to expect after a root canal treatment

A successful root canal procedure should only cause mild discomfort while your body heals. The area around your formerly infected tooth will likely feel a little swollen and tender, and your jaw may be a little sore. This should be easily managed with over-the-counter pain relievers.

Additionally, it’s a good idea to avoid any hard or overly chewy foods following the procedure, as this could irritate your recovering tooth.

If your pain gets worse or continues for longer than a couple of days, you should call your dentist. They might have you come in for a follow-up appointment to determine if your tooth needs to be cleaned out again, or if you need stronger pain medication.

Do you need a root canal? Don’t wait, schedule your appointment today!

Gone are the days of long and painful root canal procedures. Dr. Catt will create a personalized treatment with your health and comfort in mind. 
If you’re experiencing symptoms of severe tooth decay or think you may need a root canal, don’t wait. Schedule your appointment with Dr. Catt today by calling (541) 772-8846 or by contacting us here.
Dr. James Catt

Dr. James Catt

Dr. Catt graduated from Oregon Health Science University (OHSU) in 1997 and through his personalized and high-tech approach, has since become one of the most trusted dentists in the Rogue Valley. Dr. Catt is a member and past president of the Oregon Dental Association and is involved in the American Dental Association and Southern Oregon Dental Society. He’s also received recognition from the American College of Dentists and the International College of Dentists for his exceptional professional achievements, exemplary service, and dedication to the continued progress of dentistry.