Throughout pop culture, no dental procedure has received a more infamous reputation than the dreaded root canal. Often associated with pain, for many with dental anxiety the thought of one can seem tantamount to torture. We’ve all heard the stories about root canals, but can they really be that bad? The good news is that root canals are more misunderstood than they are painful. If you’re nervous about a possible root canal, hopefully understanding what a root canal really is can relieve some anxiety about this now painless procedure.
According to the American Association of Endodontists, approximately 25 million root canals are performed in the United States each year. Root canal treatment is a dental procedure aimed at addressing pain and/or infection within a tooth. Inside of each tooth there is a “canal” or tunnel in which nerves and blood vessels normally exist. The root is the part of the tooth below gum, and the canal runs right through the center of it, similar to how lead runs through the center of a pencil. The nerves, tissues, and blood vessels inside a tooth are termed the “pulp.” Irritation from dental procedures or bacteria in a cavity can cause inflammation or death of the pulp. The symptoms of the tooth dying can include pain, swelling, or infection.
The goal of root canal treatment is to remove the underlying cause of the pain and infection, which is typically bacteria and any diseased tissue within the canal. When proper local anesthesia is used, the patient should feel no pain during the procedure. Once the tooth is numb, a dentist will make an opening in any tooth structure or filling material to gain access to the pulp. A dentist then uses small metal brushes called files and a disinfectant solution to gently clean the inside of the tooth. Once cleaned, the canal space is sealed with a medical-grade rubber called gutta percha. After sealing the canals, the root canal is complete and the tooth is now ready to be restored with a permanent filling or a crown. Remember, teeth are worth saving! Root canal treated teeth have been reported to have up to a 97% survival rate.
If you are experiencing dental pain or infection, seek consultation with a root canal specialist called an endodontist to determine your options for treatment. Endodontists are dentists who complete an additional 2-3 years of training in diagnosis, root canal treatment, and pain management, beyond that of a normal dentist. Here at Dominion Endodontics, all of our providers are highly-trained specialists. We use special equipment including 3D CT imaging, microscopes and ultrasonic instruments to achieve high-quality results for our patients. For our patients with dental anxiety, we also offer sedation for a more comfortable visit. Our three offices in Arlington, Alexandria, and Falls Church serve patients from all of Northern Virginia. To schedule a consultation, call our office or book an appointment online today.