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Why Do I Need A Root Canal?

Many people experience fear when they hear the words “root canal”. The images of pain and high deductibles come to mind as we put off making that call that would schedule the procedure and lessen our pain. How many of us actually know what a root canal is though?

If you have been wondering about an upcoming appointment, or if you have been putting off scheduling one for yourself because you have anxiety about the procedure, we are here to clear things up so you can back on track to dental health and wellness. Read on for all you need to know about root canals:

What is a root canal?
A root canal is an invasive dental treatment designed to remove the infection that exists below the gum line, restoring a large area of the mouth to health once more. It helps to fortify the tooth and prevent it from further infection.

The “canal” itself refers to the part of the tooth that contains nerves, blood, and other soft tissues that tend to be quite sensitive. This pulp nourishes the tooth inside the crown and provides moisture to the surrounding material. This sensitive tissue is what sends signals to the brain, indicating experiences of heat, cold, and pain.

What are the basic steps of a root canal?
Several steps exist in a typical root canal protocol. They include:

1. Cleaning
Your dentist will remove everything that is in the root canal. He will first administer local anesthesia which will sufficiently numb that area of the mouth, then will make a very small hole in the side of the tooth, enabling him to remove diseased tissue with specialized tools. Once diseased tissue has been removed, a cleaning process will take place that will prepare the chamber for the next step, filling up the canal.

2. Filling
Your dentist will now clean, hollow out, and shape the chamber of the tooth, preparing it for a special filling. The tooth is then clean with a rubber-like material, using an adhesive cement to seal all holes completely. It is important to note that your tooth will be dead after the procedure, but can still aid in chewing and tearing food. Your tooth will no longer feel any pain, and infection will have been eliminated.

3. Adding a crown or filling
Even though you might not feel pain any longer, your tooth will be more fragile than it was before. A tooth with no pulp must receive nourishment from the ligament that attaches the tooth to the bone, so it will in time become more brittle. Until your crown or filling is complete, you should refrain from biting or chewing on it vigorously. Treatment for the canal portion of the tooth typically requires only one visit, with subsequent visits being set up for obtaining a tooth impression and fitting a crown.

How painful is a root canal?
One of the most common fears surrounding a root canal is that it is extremely painful. Rest assured, a qualified dentist can make all aspects of your procedure virtually painless. Any pain that you may have felt around the procedure has to do with the infection, not the procedure itself. The procedure is meant to alleviate any pain associated with infection.

Some tenderness will be present after your procedure; over-the-counter medication usually does a wonderful job of managing pain. Other prescription drugs such as codeine are also prescribed for those who have difficulty in the recovery period; talk to your dentist about your symptoms and have them prescribe or suggest a medication that will help to keep you comfortable while in recovery.

How can I tell I need a root canal?
If you have a cracked, chipped, or broken tooth, it is likely that an infection will develop and wreak havoc on enamel, soft tissue, and even bone structures. If left unchecked, the infection will cause the tooth to loosen, and it will eventually need to be removed if it has not been fortified. Removing a tooth may seem like the easier option, but it can have long term consequences, as bone structures can weaken, causing teeth to shift and cause issues with bite and cosmetic appearance.

In most cases, it is advised that a root canal be performed to save a tooth. This therapy will usually save the tooth and eliminate the infection that can spread to other teeth.

What does a root canal cost?
While cost can vary widely from dentist to dentist, a root canal is generally cost-efficient. Most dental insurance plans cover root canal procedures; check with your insurance provider to get pre-authorization, if you feel that this is needed for a smooth experience on the day of the procedure.

Are there potential complications?
There are complications that can occur during the procedure, making it necessary to perform additional work to maintain and protect the integrity of the tooth. These complications are:

  • Not being able to remove all infection, causing it to spread into the bone
  • A root canal that does not form a proper seal to ward off infection
  • Teeth that crack or break during the procedure, making it necessary to perform more invasive procedures to repair that area of the mouth

Talking to your dentist about these concerns will help to alleviate any anxiety before or on the day of the procedure.

We’ve got you covered!
Dr. Eric Mehler and associates in Sunrise, Florida have you covered when it comes to diagnosing, treating, and restoring health to your mouth, teeth and gums. We will work with you to develop a comprehensive treatment plan that restores your mouth to its most beautiful and vibrant state. If you suspect you are in need of a root canal, make an appointment today for an assessment and proposed a treatment plan that will cover all of your needs. Visit for more information. A healthy and vibrant smile will soon be yours!