When most people hear the term “root canal,” they shudder in horror. Root canals have an overly strong association with pain, but they shouldn’t. The procedure isn’t what causes the pain — it’s the decay, infection, and/or dying nerve that comes before it that’s excruciating.
At Riverdale Dental Arts, Dr. Sheldon Kupferman and his staff regularly perform root canal procedures for their patients in the Bronx, New York, and they regularly have to explain that the procedure isn’t the problem. To that end, they address why root canals aren’t as bad as you might think.
How to make a tooth
All 32 of your permanent teeth have a number of different parts, all of which are necessary for their function. The visible part that rests above the gum line is the crown, and a hard enamel shell covers it. The part that sits below the gum line is the root, and it’s covered by cementum, a different hard substance. The root anchors the tooth in the jaw bone.
What’s most important, though, is what lies beneath the coverings. The pulp chamber, a soft area that contains connective tissue, blood vessels, and the highly sensitive nerve, resides just under the enamel. Within the roots are canals; there can be anywhere from 1-3, depending on the tooth. The canals extend all the way from the pulp chamber into the root tips.
Because of its hardness, the enamel usually protects the pulp well. However, if the shell develops cracks or chips, bacteria can enter the inner chamber, leading to decay or infection in the pulp and an inflamed and painful nerve. An abscess is one type of infection from the multiplying bacteria. It’s basically a pus-filled pocket located at the tip of the root. It can cause:
- Swelling in the mouth and cheek
- Bone loss at the root tip
- Drainage problems, spreading infection to the gums, cheek, and/or facial skin
- A hole in the side of the tooth
When Dr. Kupferman removes a dying or dead nerve during a root canal procedure, it won’t impair your tooth’s function. In adults, the nerve basically just senses hot and cold. However, without the support of the pulp and nerve, the tooth becomes more prone to chips and cracks. That’s why most dentists place a dental crown on top of the tooth when they’re through to provide additional support.
Reasons why root canals aren’t as bad as you think
Root canals are actually one of the best things you can do for a seriously decayed or infected tooth with a dying nerve. Here’s why.
A root canal relieves pain
As we said, many people believe a root canal procedure is extremely painful, but that’s simply not true. The pain comes before; it sends you to the dentist. By removing the tooth’s nerve, Dr. Kupferman removes what’s causing the pain. And don’t worry, he numbs the area completely before he starts working. You might feel some pressure while he works, but you won’t feel any pain.
A root canal preserves your natural tooth
The tooth root in the jaw bone doesn’t just hold the tooth properly. Bone tissue naturally grows and dies, replaced by new growth; the root helps stimulate the turnover of bone tissue. If Dr. Kupferman just extracted your painful tooth, you’d be left with a gap that doesn’t foster that turnover. By performing a root canal, he preserves your natural root, and your bone tissue remains healthy.
A root canal ensures the infection doesn’t spread
By removing the infected pulp and nerve, as well as draining any abscess that may have formed, a root canal ensures the infection doesn’t spread beyond this single tooth.
A root canal makes any future work easier
Because Dr. Kupferman removes the tooth’s nerve, the tooth can’t sense anything, especially pain. That means if you need further work in this area, you’ll need less anesthetic — or maybe none at all.
The new crown, bridge, or partial denture looks natural
The final step in a root canal is topping the root with an artificial tooth, which may be a crown, a dental bridge, or a partial denture. Your smile will look totally natural, and no one will be the wiser.
If you’re experiencing sharp, stabbing pain in a tooth, especially if it’s also sensitive to hot and cold, you must come into Riverdale Dental Arts for a root canal procedure. Call our office at 718-548-1148 to set up an evaluation, or book online with us today.