Root Canals Aren't As Bad As You Think

If there's one dental procedure many wish to avoid, it's the dreaded root canal. Once an infected tooth is found during a visit to your dentist, it's more than likely you'll be subject to the treatment.

The procedure takes its name from the system deep within your tooth, which is made up of soft tissue called dental pulp (via American Association of Endodontists). Factors like tooth decay and damage to teeth or fillings can allow bacteria to find its way to the soft tissue, which can in turn cause an infection. Once the dental pulp is damaged, a root canal is needed to save the tissue from dying.

If left untreated, the bacteria can spread to your gums and even cause facial swelling, according to the National Health Service (NHS). To save your tooth, a root canal must be done. There is another option to have the affected tooth extracted, but this is usually a last resort. The procedure itself is relatively simple, but the fear of a root canal often comes with not knowing exactly what goes on when it actually starts (via Jackson Smiles). To put your mind at ease, you need to know what happens when you get a root canal and why they aren't as bad as you think.

Advancements in dental technology make root canals much quicker

Before the procedure can begin, you'll be given local anesthesia to numb the tooth receiving the root canal. Your dentist will then drill a small hole in the infected tooth to remove the damaged dental pulp, according to the Mayo Clinic. This will then be filled with a "rubber compound," according to Jackson Smiles, and a dental crown will be fixed to the top of your tooth to retain its shape. All in all, it takes around one or two visits to complete the procedure.

The reason root canals have been a sore subject for many patients is the old technology used, as Oakville Place Dental Office notes. Prior to advancements in dental tools, rotary drills were used to dig into the tooth which would require "heavy pressure" to burrow out the infected tissue. This would also generate heat that had the potential to reach nerve endings and make the process more painful. Now, most dentists use an electric drill that requires far less pressure. Even laser technology is available to use which can aid in faster treatment and recovery. It all depends on how badly your tooth is infected. 

With a basic understanding of what a root canal is and the major advancements in dental technology, the procedure "should be painless and no more unpleasant than having a filling," the NHS concludes.