By Jordan Hansen, DDS White Pine Endodontics 

WHENEVER I’M ASKED what I do for a living, I say, “I’m an endodontist.” Most people have never heard that word before, so I often follow that up with, “I’m a root canal specialist.” Then they shake their heads and say, “I hope I never need to see you!”

For many people, the term “root canal” has a very negative connotation. It seems like anything bad or painful often gets compared to root canal treatment. Why is it that so many people believe that root canals are a terrible thing to have to endure and should be avoided at all costs?

The truth is root canal treatment should not be a dreadful experience. Endodontists specialize in providing pain relief from toothaches and dental infections by performing root canal treatment. The procedure itself should be painless. Most of the time, this is accomplished with simple and effective administration of local anesthesia. Once the tooth and surrounding areas are numb, you should be able to take a nap while the root canal is completed.

I realize no one wants to have a root canal, myself included. But it is not because the procedure is painful and agonizing. What we should want to avoid is the need for a root canal. Tooth decay and other trauma to teeth can cause intense pain. It’s that pain that we want to avoid. Unfortunately, when a tooth starts hurting, it can be very unpleasant and can significantly affect quality of life. The best way to relieve that pain is by having a root canal procedure done to eliminate the inflamed nerve and/or infection. Root canal treatment is an extremely safe and effective way to eliminate tooth pain and save your natural tooth. Often the treatment can be completed in a single visit with minimal discomfort afterward.

What does a root canal entail? In basic terms, inside of our teeth is living tissue called dental pulp, often referred to as the nerve. The pulp enters the tooth through the end of the root and forms a canal or multiple canals that extend into the crown of the tooth. The pulp can become inflamed and infected from tooth decay, trauma, or restorative procedures such as crowns, bridges, or deep filings. To address this, the pulp needs to be removed and the canals cleaned and disinfected. This is done using a combination of small instruments and disinfecting solutions. The canals are then filled and sealed to prevent bacteria from entering the tooth and causing more pain or infection in the future. Afterwards, the tooth will have a filling placed and will often need a crown to prevent the tooth from breaking. The tooth can then look, feel, and function normally again, only without temperature sensation because the pulp is absent. When performed well, root canals have a very high success rate.

If you have a toothache, don’t put it off. The longer you wait, the worse it can become. If a root canal
is needed, don’t let it frighten you. A properly managed root canal procedure will help relieve your pain and get you back to your normal daily activities again. Collaborating with your dentist, we can save your natural tooth and avoid extractions and other costly dental procedures.

If you’d like to learn more about root canal treatment, visit the official site for the American Association of Endodontists: