Of all the treatments and procedures we provide at Dr. Slepchik’s, none is more misunderstood than the root canal. Patients associate pain with the procedure, which is completely inaccurate. The truth is — root canals save a tooth that would otherwise need an extraction, and the procedure doesn’t involve any more pain than filling a cavity. Dr. Slepchik performs root canals in our downtown Montreal office.
Let’s break down some of the myths surrounding the root canal, the true tooth lifesaver.
Be confident knowing Dr. Slepchik purchased the latest piece of equipment available to make your root canal dental experience more comfortable. It is less likely for a file to break, allows for better debris removal which reduces post treatment discomfort and is gentler for you as well.
What is a Root Canal?
To understand what is involved with a root canal, it helps to know the anatomy of a tooth. A tooth has an outer layer, the enamel, which covers the entire visible portion of the tooth. Beneath the enamel is another hard layer, called the dentin. Inside the dentin is the pulp. The pulp is the interior of the tooth, where you’ll find the blood vessels, nerves, and connective tissue. The pulp extends from the crown of the tooth (the part above the gumline) down to the tip of the roots. The root canals are aptly named, as the roots run through them.
Whether due to decay, a deep crack, large deep fillings, or even trauma, the pulp can become infected or inflamed. Now the tooth is in danger. Saving it will require cleaning out the pulp chamber all the way into the roots — a root canal.
Why do I need a root canal?
When the pulp of a tooth becomes infected, you’ll know. That tooth will be very sensitive to hot and cold, to biting, even to a gust of cold winter Montreal air. The surrounding gums will likely be swollen. The tooth may become discoloured, usually grey. The pain can be intense. This is probably the root of the misconceptions about a root canal. Of course, the root canal is going to alleviate the pain — it isn’t the cause. The cause of your pain is the infection. This is the solution.
In rarer cases, the patient won’t have any idea there is a problem in the pulp, but an x-ray will show it. This is another reason keeping your regular exams and cleaning protocol with Dr. Slepchik is so important.
Should you choose not to have your tooth treated at this point, your infected tooth may develop an abscess, a puss-filled pocket that extends up the roots of the tooth. Now even a root canal won’t be able to save the tooth. It will need extraction and replacement with a dental implant or bridge.
What are the symptoms that my tooth is infected?
When infection reaches the pulp of the tooth you will know you have a problem. Here are the symptoms associated with an infected tooth needing a root canal:
- Intense pain
- Prolonged sensitivity to hot or cold
- Tenderness to the touch and when chewing
- Discoloration of the tooth
- Swelling or tenderness of the surrounding gum tissue
- Persistent pimples on the gums
In some cases, a patient won’t yet have the above symptoms, but we can see the infection on the dental x-rays during your routine cleanings and exam. The infection won’t yet have reached the nerves of the tooth. This is often the case in a tooth where there has been prior trauma, such as with orthodontics or even a tooth being grazed by something like a hockey puck years ago.