A layer of matter known as dentin lies beneath the tooth enamel. Soft tissue known as pulp is found in the dentin. This pulp is made up of nerve fibers, lymph vessels, veins, arteries, and other tissue. It fills a region inside the crown of the tooth known as the pulp chamber. From there, it runs down the inside of the tooth through a canal in the dentin – the root canal. While some teeth may have just one root canal, others may have up to four.
In some cases, tooth decay or damage leads to an infection or inflammation of the pulp. This is often painful and may lead to an abscess at the root’s tip. If left alone, this can get worse and the tooth may need to be pulled. The key point of a “root canal” (or, more formally, endodontic treatment) is to save the tooth and avoid this outcome.
The Root Canal Procedure
In root canal work, the pulp is removed and the canal is cleaned, shaped, and sealed. This work may be done by a dentist or by a specialist known as an endodontist.
Root Canals and Pain: The Facts
The very words “root canal” are enough for some people to avoid the dentist entirely. They make one think of pain. But the truth is, most people who have a root canal are spared any severe pain. This is due to the use of dental anesthesia while the work is done.
There can be some slight discomfort after the work is done. The tooth that is worked on may feel tender in the days after a root canal, but this can be managed with pain meds.
After a Root Canal
After a root canal, the standard rules of oral hygiene apply. You should brush and floss daily and see your dentist for regular exams and cleanings. No other special measures are needed.
Deciding if a Root Canal is Needed
Some signs that you may need a root canal include tooth pain when eating or due to changes in temperature, and tooth discoloration. Lymph nodes that are swollen, leaky, or sore are also a sign that a root canal may be required. If you have these or related symptoms, talk with your dentist.