A Little Antsy About an Upcoming Root Canal? 8 Questions to Ask Your Dentist to Put Your Mind at Ease

Posted on: 26 October 2020

Having any dental procedure done for the first time can naturally cause a patient to be a little antsy. As with other situations, though, knowledge is power; when your dentist informs you that you need a root canal, you can better understand the procedure and hopefully feel much more at ease.

1. Why Is the Root Canal Needed?

Your tooth has probably bothered you for a while now, indicative of the presence of an infection. A tooth that's infected at the root is painful, but can sometimes be saved. Your dentist offers this procedure if the affected tooth doesn't require extraction, yet still needs to be cleared of the infection. Left untreated, your infection will only worsen, possibly leading to a more wide-spread infection and necessitating emergency removal.

2. What Are the Exact Steps Involved?

As the name implies, a root canal means accessing the roots of a tooth, in canal-like areas, then removing them completely. To do this, your dentist must clear away some of the insides of the tooth, basically hollowing it out to reach (and remove) the roots. Depending on which tooth is involved, there may be a couple of infected roots in need of removal. The hollow tooth is eventually filled with a hard composite, resembling the natural teeth. 

3. What Happens to the "Root" During the Procedure?

The infected root pulp, nerve, and any surrounding infected tissue are all cleared out of your tooth, which is then cleaned and disinfected. At this point in the procedure, your dentist has a very clear picture of the state of the tooth and how much damage the infection caused. They will ensure that all dangerous material has been eradicated before continuing.

4. Is It Painful?

Likely as soon as you sit down, you'll receive one shot of a numbing agent, which stings about as much as any other needle you've had injected by a dentist. As the procedure unfolds, the dentist will make sure you're not feeling any pain or discomfort, lest they follow up the shot with an additional dose. Although most patients don't require the double-dose, it may be reassuring to know that if needed, they can administer the shot and alleviate any additional pain. 

Most people don't feel anything, save for the typical weird sensations involved with instruments at work in their mouths. If you're more sensitive to pain than most, which might be attributed to the structure of your brain, rather than any given procedure in question, inform your dentist and they'll be completely prepared to offer an additional numbing agent if you want it.  

5. How Long Does Healing Take?

Recovery depends on the initial complexity of the procedure, but it's also important that you take care when eating and drinking afterward. Follow instructions by treating the area gingerly for as long as is recommended. Generally, a return to normalcy takes just a few days; however, individual results can vary. Keep in touch with your dental office regarding any unexpected pain, discomfort, or other symptoms.

6. Will You Need a Crown Afterwards?

If your affected tooth is under a lot of pressure while working in your mouth, such as a molar, which is responsible for crunching and grinding food, a crown will most likely be recommended. Since the tooth was partially or fully hollowed during the root canal, a crown may be needed to support the tooth's entire structure. 

7. Are There Any Circumstances That Should Be Reported To The Dentist?

If you experience any situation that arises causing you distress, such as pain, swelling, or difficulty eating, notify your dentist immediately. Although not common, complications can happen following any dental visit. Just stay in communication and abide by their advice.

8. Do You Have an Alternative to Getting a Root Canal?

If you're still apprehensive about a root canal, even after all your questions have been answered, discuss possible alternatives, such as extraction alone or extraction followed by an implant, bridge, partial or other apparatus with your dentist. While doing nothing at all isn't likely an option in the presence of infection, you may have several choices available. 

Knowledge is power, especially when you're undergoing a medical procedure. Ask your dentist these questions to feel more at ease before the procedure.