It’s October, a time for watching scary movies alone at night, frequenting haunted houses, and decorating your home for all the trick-or-treating kids. Halloween is a favorite of many, and while being scared is part of the spirit, you don’t have to be afraid of a procedure like a root canal.
At some point in the century, the root canal has gotten a bad rap. Usually synonymous with a painful, tedious task — “I’d rather have a root canal!” — many patients shiver even at the thought. However, when pressed to explain what a the procedure actually is, those same terrified people are often stumped. So if your dentist tells you that you need a root canal, save your fear for something more fun, like a haunted corn maze.
What is a Root Canal?
One of the best ways to alleviate fear surrounding something, is to better understand it. By taking the time to do a little research, you’re granting yourself power that you didn’t have before. To better understand what a root canal is, you’ll first have to understand the structure of a tooth.
The outside layer of your tooth is known as enamel, which is the hardest and most mineralized structure in the human body. It provides a strong protective coating for your tooth. Below the enamel is dentin, and below that is a soft interior known as pulp. Contained in this pulp is nerves and blood vessels. Cavities are essentially bacteria which have eaten through the enamel layer of your teeth. If this bacteria reaches a tooth’s pulp, it can then spread into the root, your jaw, and eventually your blood. If left untreated, the infection can even become life-threatening.
This is where the root canal comes in. In this procedure, the infected pulp from inside your tooth is removed, the empty space is filled with a new, inert material to support the tooth’s structure, and finally the tooth is protected with a durable crown that covers it entirely.
Clearing Up the Misconceptions
Root canals are a highly effective treatment that can mitigate a lot of risk for a patient with minimal drawbacks. Here are a few misconceptions you might have encountered:
- Root canals are painful. This, of course, is the biggest misconception. While they have have been painful in the past, modern anesthetics and techniques have significantly improved the comfort of patients, some reporting almost no pain at all. An infected tooth, now that’s painful. Root canal therapy cures the infection.
- Root canals kill your tooth. Actually, infection is killing your tooth. Root canals do replace living pulp with an inert material, but your tooth will remain intact. Removing the infected material prevents future complications.
- It’s better pull the tooth. Removing the infected tooth is certainly an option, but it isn’t necessarily the best option. Preserving the tooth now reserves the option of a dental implant later. And natural teeth still have some advantages over implants. We will evaluate your situation in detail to determine what is the best course of action.
If by now a root canal still seems unbearable, there are plenty of options. Some patients may have high levels of anxiety about almost any dental procedure. This is completely understandable, especially if you struggle with anxiety in your day-to-day life. Not to fear, though, because relaxation dentistry can provide you with the peace of mind needed to undergo any dental procedure.
If you suffer from common symptoms of a badly infected or damaged tooth, a root canal may be just the procedure you need. If you live in the Philadelphia area, don’t hesitate to call us at (610) 200-6290 to schedule an appointment. Patients can also request an appointment online or ask us a question!