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For many patients, there is nothing so terrifying as hearing the name of the procedure: the dreaded root canal. While it’s certainly the case that patients needing a root canal have a significant problem in one or more teeth, it’s also true that root canals are a common procedure, which can be handled quickly and virtually painlessly by modern dental techniques.

A root canal is typically recommended as a method to save a badly decayed or infected tooth. By the time a dentist recommends a root canal, it’s likely that the nerve at the base of the tooth, or the soft pulp within the tooth, has become infected and is likely causing serious pain. By removing the pulp and nerves, the dentist (or endodontist) will be able to stop the spread of the decay to the bone beneath the tooth, salvage the remainder of the tooth’s structure, and relieve significant pain that the patient may be experiencing.

The procedure itself is involved, but straightforward. The top of the tooth will be opened with a drill, allowing the dentist (or endodontist) to access the pulp. The pulp, any decaying nerve tissue, and any other debris within the tooth will be removed with very small files, which can extend down into each individual root of the tooth. Once cleaned with the files, the tooth will likely be medicated and then sealed, with a permanent crown being placed over the tooth once it’s had time to heal.

While the concept is likely scary, the procedure itself has numerous benefits. It can remove decay that would be impossible to reach any other way. It removes the nerve, which removes the potential for that tooth to experience pain. The root of the tooth is preserved, allowing a natural looking crown to be fitted without needing implants or bridges.

If you’ve been told you have a severe cavity, if you’re experiencing deep pain near a specific tooth, or if you’ve cracked and broken a tooth and didn’t have it immediately checked, talk to your dentist about options. If your dentist determines that a root canal is the proper procedure, you can rest assured knowing that it’s a procedure with a very high success rate, and a very good chance of leaving you with a natural tooth structure for many years.

For more information on oral health contact Berry Hill Dentistry at 516-921-1717.