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18 February 2022

Is root canal as painful as it sounds?

A root canal has a particularly scary name that can worry even the bravest of people. But there are a lot of misconceptions about the procedure. When you know the facts about a root canal, you will see that there is really nothing to be afraid of.

When is a root canal necessary?

You need a root canal when there is an infection or inflammation within the pulp of the tooth. The pulp lies within the centre of the tooth and extends into the roots. It contains blood vessels and nerves that help keep the tooth ‘live’. Due to extensive decay or cracks that start on the surface and extending into the pulp, inflammations and infections can arise within the blood vessels and nerves, which is why the damage can be so painful.

When the pulp and its nerves are irreversibly infected, you are left with two options: (1) remove the tooth entirely; or (2) keep the tooth and treat the infection using root canal therapy.

Why people say a root canal hurts

When you actually get past the storytelling, the main reason people talk about the pain of a root canal isn’t because of the procedure itself. It’s the infection that necessitates the procedure. When a tooth’s nerve tissue within the pulp becomes infected or inflamed due to decay or injury, it hurts. And it can hurt like hell! Often a secondary infection in the form of an abscess can form at the base of the tooth as well. When it fills with pus, it places a lot of pressure on the nerves in the area. Again, that adds to the pain.

The other reason this procedure has acquired a bad rap over the years is because of old technology. In the past, rotary drills required a lot of pressure to clean out the tooth. That pressure created heat, which in turn heated the nerve, causing pain. The sound of the drill itself created stress in clients, which made them even more sensitive to pain.

Why your root canal worrying days are over

In the last decade, advances in dental technology have resulted in root canal therapy that is of no more discomfort than having a tooth filled. Here are some of the reasons you don’t need to fear root canal at The Dental Room:

  • Electric drills spin faster and vibrate less than the whirring, heat-miser drills of the past.
  • We have more comprehensive array of anaesthesia. New medicines allow for greater control over numbing localisation. They also mean less time is needed for anaesthetic.
  • Digital X-rays and 3-D imaging solutions allow your doctor to diagnose root canal cases more accurately. This reduces the potential of mistakes retreatment.
  • Microscopic cameras allow for greater examination of the inside of the tooth. They let surgeons give clients a play-by-play of the procedure if they wish as well.
  • Laser technology instead of a traditional drill. This reduces treatment time and ensuring a faster recovery.
  • Less time in the chair! (This is the best part!) In some cases, the time for this procedure has come down to only an hour or two. All this technology adds up to less time spent at the clinic, and less angst for the client.

In a few decades as technology continues to advance, and more people experience modern root canal therapy, the scary stories will get harder to believe.

However, it is important to prevent things from getting to this point. Dental disease is very often silent until it reaches the pulp. Many people go to the dentist only when they have a toothache, and usually extensive treatment is required. But regular maintenance visits will help pick up any problems and save you time, any discomfort and costs.

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