What Are Root Canals And 4 Painful Reasons You Might Need One

Dr. Christopher Li Etobicoke - Li Family Dental

By Dr. Christopher Li, DDS

July 1, 2020

emergency dental care, root canal, tooth infection

If there is one term no dental patient wants to hear, it is “root canal”. Sometimes, the alarm this term creates is based on a lack of information. At Li Family Dental, we want all our patients to feel comfortable and confident in our services, no matter the procedure. We are always careful to provide the safest and most comfortable experience for every patient who passes through our doors.

With this said, it helps to have all the information about the services in question. To help you better understand what a root canal is and why it is necessary we have created this helpful guide. 

What Is A Root Canal?

A root canal is a treatment required by patients with an inner tooth infection. An infection of this kind is generally quite painful and is buried beneath the dentin layer of your tooth, making it impossible to reach without opening the tooth up.

As the tooth becomes infected, inflammation begins. This causes soreness and swelling, which impacts nerve endings and blood vessels inside your tooth. To remove the infection, all of the pulp inside the tooth must be removed, and all decay where the infection has touched must be properly cleaned out. toothache

If an infection of this type goes untreated, it can spread to other parts of your body, causing severe pain, and even leading to extreme circumstances, like death. 

What Are Some Causes Of Infection Requiring A Root Canal?

There are many reasons patients need root canals to remove infection in their teeth. Some of the most common include:

  • Cracked teeth – Any crack or opening in your tooth is enough to let in bacteria from food and the environment. When bacteria get inside your tooth, it is impossible to remove with normal brushing, because toothbrushes are not designed to go inside our teeth. These bacteria grow and infect the tooth, causing the need for a root canal.
  • Traumatized teeth – If you have ever been in an accident where a tooth has been hit causing trauma, an infection could ensue. This is because, like other portions of your body, your teeth have living materials inside of them, like blood vessels, nerves, and pulp. Internal damage that goes untreated could lead to an infection, which in turn requires a root canal.
  • Previous dental work – Sometimes dental work, like fillings, are not done properly. Or, at times, a dentist may think everything is cleaned out of the tooth but misses something microscopic. This residual bacterium grows and causes an infection requiring a root canal.
  • Overly large fillings – Fillings are a common dental strategy to deal with cavities that leave holes in our teeth. Unfortunately, some holes are too large to safely fill with a standard filling, and this leads to openings around the filling, where bacteria can creep inside. This bacterium grows and causes an infection.

Is A Root Canal Painful?

If you have ever heard the saying, “like a root canal” about an experience being unbearable or painful, it has probably left a bad impression of root canals in your mind. While dentists choose to use a root canal as a last-resort procedure, it is not due to the pain level of that procedure. In fact, a root canal is just as painless as a standard filling. The area is numbed with anaesthetic, and, aside from some pressure, you feel nothing as your dentist removes the infection from your tooth.

So, why do so many people assume this is a painful procedure? The most probable reason is due to the pain the infection causes – not the procedure itself. Most patients do not call their dentist until the pain is unbearable. Remember, the infection is eating away at pulp and nerves inside your tooth. This is what causes the pain, not the root canal procedure.

root canal procedure

Following a procedure, most patients feel immediate relief, although there is some residual tenderness to the tooth.

How Long Does It Take To Heal From A Root Canal?

Following a root canal, most dentists will allow patients to return to work and normal life after the effects of the anaesthesia wears off. However, while externally you can manage daily life, your tooth may be sensitive for several days. Some patients find it difficult to chew on that side until the soreness goes away.

Most root canals require minimal healing time, but we still recommend taking the day off if you have the option. This guarantees you are at your best when you go back to work, and are no longer feeling any leftover tingling from the anaesthetic, which might impede speech and chewing. 

Restoring Teeth After A Root Canal

Some patients wonder what their options are after a root canal. The dentist may recommend finishing with a permanent filling to close the area where the canal was created to empty the pulp and infection.

In some cases, a crown may be needed. In very extreme cases, where the tooth could not be saved, an implant may be used. At Li Family Dental, we have all the expertise required for any of these scenarios and Dr. Chris will provide the recommendations that are right for you.

Contact Li Family Dental For More Information On Root Canals

Root canals are usually a last resort for tooth pain, but when they are needed, they are essential for finding relief and improving your oral health. At Li Family Dental, you can rest assured that our professional staff with years of experience will take the utmost care to provide a safe and comfortable experience.

If you are experiencing tooth pain, book an appointment immediately so we can help. Call 416-232-2033 or request an appointment by clicking here.

Dr. Christopher Li, DDS

About the author

Doctor Christopher Li, DDS
Dr. Chris, as he is affectionately known, is a licensed dentist with over 20 years experience. His caring personality makes even the most tentative person at ease. Patients are constantly commenting about how Dr. Chris is incredible at delivering pain-free freezing, and how he has an amazing chair-side manner.  Dr. Chris loves sharing information with his patients and everyone who has teeth about how to care for their teeth, avoid tooth decay, and the treatments available to help them overcome their tooth pain or other dental issues so they can enjoy life and food to its fullest!

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