If it’s recommended by your dentist, you probably need a root canal.
So you just left your last appointment with your dentist and you are contemplating the news, wondering, do I really need a root canal? It’s possible that your dentist recommended a root canal because your tooth appears to be infected or you have significant pulpal nerve damage. This can be due to a cracked tooth or a large cavity. And, when left untreated, bacteria can make its way into the pulp, leading to severe infection, bone loss, or tooth loss. If your dentist has told you that you need a root canal, here is what you need to know.
What You Need to Know About Root Canals
Let’s start by explaining the parts of the tooth so you can better understand why your dentist is recommending a root canal and a crown. The tooth consists of three primary parts—the enamel, dentin, and pulp.
- Enamel: Your dental enamel is the hard tissue that covers the surface of your natural dental crown.
- Dentin: The dentin is the tissue that forms the tooth from your crown to the root of the tooth. Dentin is located inside the enamel but is softer. Inside the dentin runs a small tube filled with fluid called the dentinal tubule.
- Pulp: Pulp is located in the center of the tooth and is made up of connective tissue, blood vessels, and cells. When the pulp becomes infected, it can be excruciatingly painful, and a root canal is often required to save the tooth.
Now that you understand the parts of the tooth, it will be easier to understand the levels of tooth decay. And, by the time you need a root canal, the decay has already worked its way to the pulp.
The Stages of Tooth Decay
Similar to gum disease, there are various stages of tooth decay. And, when tooth decay is in its earliest stage, it is possible to reverse it. Brushing your teeth twice a day, flossing at least once per day, and rinsing with a reputable fluoridated mouthwash is often enough to keep tooth decay from progressing. But when it doesn’t, tooth decay can progress, becoming more and more serious and detrimental to your oral and overall health along the way.
Stage 1 Tooth Decay: White Spots
In this earliest stage of decay, your tooth will begin to show white spots just below the surface of the enamel. These white spots demonstrate the demineralization of your tooth and are easy to miss. Often, your dentist will be the first person to notice.
Stage 2 Tooth Decay: Enamel Decay
At this stage, the tooth begins to erode from the underside outwards. This leaves the outer enamel intact early on. However, once the cavity works its way through the enamel’s surface, the only option is treatment with a dental filling.
Stage 3 Tooth Decay: Dentin Decay
Now, you might be starting to experience some pain. At this point, the cavity has begun to eat away at the dentine. Your dentist will likely recommend a filling to keep bacteria from reaching the pulp.
Stage 4 Tooth Decay: Painful Pulp
Unfortunately, at this stage, you will be experiencing some pain. This stage is quite severe, and a root canal is the only option besides tooth extraction. After the root canal procedure, your dentist will likely place a crown over the infected tooth. And, at Steven A. Lang, DDS, same day crowns are an excellent option so you can get back to your day-to-day life and avoid follow-up appointments.
Stage 5 Tooth Decay: Tooth Abscess
At this point, the infection has made its way to the root’s tip and exited the tooth itself. As a result, the surrounding tissues and bone structure can become infected. You may experience swelling and severe pain. In most cases, your dentist will recommend a root canal or a tooth extraction. However, it is essential to note that tooth abscesses are extremely dangerous and can even be fatal if not dealt with immediately.
If your dentist recommends a root canal, don’t delay.
As a rule of thumb, if your dentist has suggested that you have a root canal, you mustn’t wait and prolong the infection. As we said above, tooth abscesses and infections can be extremely dangerous and even spread to other parts of your mouth or body. Be on the lookout for signs indicating your condition has spread.
- Pain in your mouth or your tongue
- Swelling in your face, cheeks, or neck
- Difficulty swallowing or breathing
- Difficulty opening your mouth
- An itching or burning sensation on your skin around your mouth
- Nausea or vomiting
- Severe headache that won’t go away on its own
- Loss of vision or double vision
- Severe fatigue or drooping eyelids
If you are experiencing one or more of these symptoms, it is imperative you contact your emergency dentist or head to the nearest emergency room.
What to Do When Dental Anxiety is Keeping You From Seeking Root Canal Treatment
If your dentist says you need a root canal and crown, it’s time to get the tooth taken care of. And if you have dental anxiety, you should know that your dentist has strategies to help you mitigate any fears you may have and make your root canal experience as comfortable as possible.
Here are some strategies that have successfully helped past patients cope with their dental anxiety for a successful root canal and crown placement procedure.
- Bring a friend or loved one to your appointment for moral support.
- Think of happy thoughts and images while sitting in the dental chair.
- Never hesitate to ask the dentist and dental assistant any questions you might have.
- Be bold and ask for a timeout now and then. Just raise your hand and alert us that you need a short break.
- Before your appointment, practice deep breathing exercises. Take a deep breath, filling your chest with air. Slowly count from one to five as you inhale. Then hold your breath for three seconds before you slowly release your breath as you count to five. Do this as many times as you need to help you relax.
- Ask us about sedation dentistry or other safe medications that can help you relax and sit comfortably through the procedure.
- Know that various financing options are available to help you afford your root canal and crown treatment.
Steven A. Lang, DDS can help you achieve a successful root canal and crown placement.
Don’t delay your root canal treatment. If it has been recommended that you get a root canal, know that putting it off can only make the situation worse. Request an appointment today at Steven A. Lang, DDS. We offer complete family dental care in Miami Valley, OH, and can successfully treat your tooth infection and stop your toothache.
What are you waiting for? Stop the pain today and enjoy your smile again tomorrow.