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Root Canals.......are they really that bad?

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I know what you have seen on TV and the internet. The joke goes something like this " I would rather have a root canal......". In the past, maybe someone has said to you "You need a root canal" and the exit to the office could not be found soon enough. I am sure that a friend or associate has come from the dentist and said " I just had a root canal, it was$#@^^$@$! Well, todays entry will attempt to dispel some of the myths of root canal therapy and hopefully will provide you with much less anxiety about the procedure if and when you hear those words from your co-workers.

One may wonder, why do I need a root canal? There is a simple answer. Your tooth "nerve" or pulp is dead or dying. This happens in any number of ways, but primarily due to a large insult to the tooth. When this happens to the pulp, it causes inflammation. Sometimes this inflammation is accompanied with sensitivity or pain. If regular visits to the dentist are not a hallmark of a patients calendar, this condition can begin to bother you, sending you what I refer to as "a warning sign" Many people will then go to the dentist, and may describe their pain in a number of ways. If a patient ignores the "warning signs", this pain can become quite debilitating, bringing the studliest of patients to their knees and may make the patient reach for the tool kit to find a pair of pliers!

Very little of what I have just told you is newsworthy. What is the best news possible in the early stages of inflammation and mild pain is that Root Canal Therapy can be quite painless. The procedure is straightforward and is always used to save a tooth that otherwise must be pulled. I often say to my patients that nothing is ever quite as valuable as a natural tooth root; This root preserves invaluable space for both your bite and support for the tooth. Implants are fantastic, and after the tooth is pulled a great option, but in my way of treatment, that root must stay!

A couple of words about the procedure. At Dr. Partrick's office, we discuss all risks, benefits and alternatives to therapy. One a patient understands the reason for treatment and wishes to proceed, an ordinary injection of local anesthetic is given to the patient; A contraption known as a rubber dam must be used to protect the patient. The canal of the tooth is cleaned and then filled with a plastic-like material; in some instances, a crown must be placed over the tooth to aid in keeping the tooth for the long term.  

Most root canals are treated by the general dentist. Some general dentists are quite experienced with Root Canal Therapy. There are occasions that arise that may require you to see a root canal specialist, or endodontist.  These occasions are too many to describe in just a short posting, but essentially endodontists usually treat complex root canals. For the most part, a dentist can tell before he begins a root canal whether he has the ability and training to operate on your tooth. An endodontist is part of a team that ensures that you receive the best dental care available. 

Disclaimer; Notice I didn't say totally (there is no totally in any health profession) painless in the third paragraph. As with any dental procedure, there are incidents where the nerve is not 100% asleep, and may require more local anesthetic. More importantly, if a person puts off treatment from procrastination, fear, whatever, this makes the job of a root canal much harder, in terms of anesthesia. Of course this is not always something that anyone can alter, but for the most part Root Canal Therapy is predictable, useful, and painless.

Dr. Partrick will be happy to discuss any concerns a patient may have with Root Canal Therapy. He will use some visual materials to help patients understand the diagnosis and the treatment for root canals. We hope that you never need a root canal, but maybe the next time you hear that "it was just #$^&#%$@ awful", you may temper your thinking!

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