Root Canals - Everything You Should Know

If you are experiencing intense tooth pain, you may need emergency root canal treatment. Today, our Edmonton dentists cover the definition of the procedure, what you can expect and what the treatment looks like. Plus, how you can avoid needing one in the first place. 

What is a root canal?

A dentist can perform this dental procedure to relieve pain caused by an infected or abscessed tooth. Inflamed pulp is removed before the interior of the tooth is cleaned and disinfected. To finish the root canal treatment, a crown or filling is placed to seal the tooth. 

Why would I need a root canal?

If a cavity is left untreated for too long, or your tooth is damaged due to cracks, injury or trauma, bacteria can invade the tooth and cause an infection. An emergency root canal may then be needed to treat the infection, preserve the tooth and prevent the need for an extraction. 

What are signs or symptoms that I may need a root canal?

You may be surprised to hear that you may not know if you have an infected tooth. However, if you need a root canal, you may notice some specific signs or symptoms, including:

  • Persistent tooth pain 
  • Sensitivity to heat and cold 
  • Pimple on the gums 
  • Cracked or chipped tooth 
  • Tooth discolouration 
  • Swollen gums
  • Swollen jaw 
  • Loose tooth
  • Tooth mobility 
  • Pain when pressure is applied 

How should I prepare for a root canal treatment?

Our dentists at Emergency Dental Clinics routinely perform emergency root canal procedures for people experiencing intense tooth pain. 

Your dentist can answer any questions you may have before they start the procedure. Depending on the circumstances, there may be a few steps you can take to prepare for a root canal, including:

  • Taking all medications as prescribed - You may need to take antibiotics or anti-inflammatory medications before your appointment, especially for a severe infection. 
  • Refrain from smoking - Tobacco products disrupt your body's ability to heal itself. Avoid smoking - or quit altogether if possible - before your root canal appointment. 
  • Eat a healthy meal - Your mouth will be numb for a few hours following your root canal treatment, so you may want to eat before your appointment if possible. 

How long does a root canal take?

Depending on the amount and severity of your tooth infection, the length of your treatment may vary. On average, a root canal takes approximately 30 to 60 minutes to complete. If the procedure is being performed on a larger tooth with multiple roots, it can take up to an hour and a half. You may need to come to our Edmonton office for one or two appointments. 

Does a root canal hurt?

A root canal usually isn't any more painful than having a filling place due to the fact that your dentist will use local anesthesia. In fact, the infection may be causing significantly more pain than this procedure would. You may, however, experience some pain, discomfort or sensitivity after the procedure - more about that below.

What happens during the root canal process?

Most root canal treatments today involve little discomfort. It is not unlike a routine dental filling. Before starting the procedure, the dentist will take dental X-rays of your infected tooth to help find the extent of damage and to confirm that a root canal is the appropriate treatment option. 

Here are the steps that will be taken to complete the procedure:

  1.  Anesthesia is administered - Local anesthesia will be used to numb the infected tooth and surrounding gums. Medications such as oral sedatives, intravenous (IV) sedaton or nitrous oxide may also be recommended and administered if you are experiencing anxiety. 
  2. A dental dam is placed - A small rubber dam will be placed over the area to isolate the tooth and keep it dry during the procedure. 
  3. The dentist makes a small opening in the tooth - The dentist accesses the pulp by creating a small hole in the tooth's crown. 
  4. Canals are shaped - Once the infected materials and pulp are removed, the pulp chamber and root canals are cleaned, disinfected and shaped. 
  5. Canals are filled - The empty canals are filled with medicated materials. 
  6. The tooth is sealed - A temporary dental filling is placed to seal the tooth and keep bacteria from re-entering. 
  7. The final restoration is placed - A dental crown is typically needed to protect the treated tooth and fix your bite. A permanent crown replaces the temporary filling and can sometimes take two to three weeks to be ready, though you may be able to have a crown placed in the same appointment in some cases. 

What can I expect after a root canal procedure?

While you likely won't experience significant pain after a root canal, your tooth may be sensitive for the first few days. These symptoms are normal and can be managed with over-the-counter or prescription pain relievers. Side effects typically lessen within a week or two. 

How can I avoid needing a root canal?

Of course, we are here for you if you're ever in need of an emergency root canal. However, if you've had one previously or you want to avoid needing one in the future, there are some preventive measures you can take, including:

  • Taking proper care of your teeth by brushing twice a day and flossing at least once per day
  • Seeing one of our dentists or your primary dentist if you're experiencing tooth pain
  • Seeing your dentist regularly every six months
  • Not chewing ice, which can cause tooth cracks or fractures, leading to damaged tooth pulp 

Are you experiencing severe tooth pain? You may need a root canal treatment. Contact our Edmonton dentists right away. We can examine your tooth and recommend treatment options.

Have a dental emergency in Edmonton? We're here on weekends and after hours to help.

Dental emergencies always happen when you least expect them. Our friendly and experienced dental team is on call to assist you when you need us most.

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