Tooth infections can be extremely painful. Usually, the only way to really deal with them is to have a root canal performed. This is a procedure in which the dentist removes the infected pulp from the middle of your tooth before filling it and sometimes covering it with a crown. Root canals have quite a bad reputation, but really it's the tooth infection that's painful – the procedure actually alleviates that pain. Here's a closer look at what to expect when you sit down in the dentist's chair for your root canal.
Usually, the first thing your dentist will do is administer a local anesthetic. This won't put you to sleep – it will just numb the area around your infected tooth so you don't feel anything as the dentist works. The anesthesia injection may sting a little, but should not be overly painful. It will take a few minutes for your mouth to go numb, and then the dentist will begin work.
Cleaning Out The Tooth
Once you're numb, the dentist will use a drill to remove the tooth material from the center of your tooth. If you've ever had a cavity filled, this will feel similar to when the dentist cleaned out the cavity area. You'll feel vibrations, but should not feel any pain. If you do feel any pain, alert your dentist. He or she may need to give you an additional anesthesia shot. Once all of the tooth material has been removed, your dentist will spray an antibacterial liquid into the tooth roots to kill any remaining bacteria.
Filling the Tooth
After the tooth has dried, your dentist will use thin, silicone tubes to fill in the empty tooth roots. These will be eased into the tooth using a tweezer-like instrument. Then, the tooth will be filled with a composite or amalgam substance. This process is similar to that of filling a cavity. The material will be injected into the tooth, allowed to harden for a few minutes, and then filed down to the correct shape.
Applying a Crown
Teeth often, but not always, need to be covered in a crown after a root canal. If yours does need a crown, your dentist will first put a temporary crown in place. You'll return after a week or two to have the permanent crown, which is designed to perfectly fit your tooth, put into place. This is a painless process during which the dentist essentially applies cement and sticks the crown into place.