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The Truth About Root Canals

If you ask around, many people will tell you that their most feared dental procedure is a root canal. But in reality, as a survey by the American Association of Endodontists revealed, most people’s information about root canals comes not from their own experience, but from others’. Unfortunately, inaccurate information about root canals can keep people from making informed decisions about their dental health. The truth is, most of those surveyed who experienced root canal therapy first hand had the procedure to alleviate pain, did not experience pain during the procedure, and afterward, felt better than they did before their appointment. It is believed that the negative perception of root canals stems from early treatment methods, which were indeed painful, and bear little resemblance to the way root canals are performed currently. What exactly is a root canal?

A root canal is actually something in your tooth, not a procedure. Root canaltherapy is the name of the procedure that seems to intimidate so many people. A root canal is the space inside of the tooth that travels from the tooth’s center, down the length of the root, all the way to the tip. There are one to four canals in each tooth, depending on whether it is a molar, premolar, cuspid, or an incisor. Why does root canal therapy become necessary?

There are many reasons for root canal therapy, including invasive tooth decay, abscessed teeth, trauma (such as breaks that expose the nerve), or a dying tooth, which can result from aging or past trauma.

What to expect during root canal therapy

Root canal therapy can take more than a single appointment, but often takes only one. It depends completely on the extent of the damage that requires treatment. Dr. Kotre always advises her patients during their consultation as to whether their root canal therapy can be completed in her office, and how many visits will be required, or if they will need to instead be seen by an endodontist. If root canal therapy is necessary on a molar, patients will always be referred out to a specialist.

During an appointment for root canal therapy, a local anesthetic will be applied in order to numb the affected tooth. Once the tooth is numb, the patient will receive an x-ray, in order to fully examine the problem area and provide a reference for Dr. Kotre during the procedure. Different chemicals are used to completely clean and disinfect the tooth, and Dr. Kotre will use a dental dam to keep the affected area dry and the chemicals out of the rest of the mouth.

A small hole is then drilled in the enamel, and the dental pulp and nerve that fills the tooth extracted. Once the tooth is completely cleaned out, it is then carefully dried, and any remaining tooth decay removed before a rubber-like material called gutta percha is applied to seal the inside of the tooth. If Dr. Kotre has performed the procedure, she will then permanently fill the tooth to complete the root canal therapy. If an endodontist has performed the treatment, she will apply a temporary filling, and send the patient back to Dr. Kotre for one that is permanent.

At this time, a crown is often recommended to protect the tooth from cracking. Since the blood supply has been taken away from the tooth, it can become brittle, and a dental crown can prevent further damage to the restored tooth from occurring. For any remaining soreness, over-the-counter medication is often enough for most people, but prescription pain relievers can be prescribed if there is above-average discomfort. It isn’t uncommon for patients to find that their pain levels are actually lower even directly after the procedure than before, as root canal therapy is often recommended to alleviate a painful problem to begin with.

If you are experiencing tooth pain, please contact Dr. Kotre’s Ann Arbor dental office at 734-677-2156 as soon as possible so she may examine the problem area and schedule whatever treatment may be necessary.


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