My dentist told me I’m going to need root canal therapy. What should I know before my appointment?

Beneath the top layer of your tooth (the enamel) and the second layer (the dentin), there is a pulp, or nerve, which delivers sensations such as heat, cold and pain to the brain. Whether from excessive decay or physical trauma, this nerve can become damaged, causing an abscess to form at the root of the tooth. Your dentist has recommended root canal therapy, a procedure in which the diseased pulp is removed from an infected tooth, to prevent further damage and to relieve your pain.

Symptoms of an infected root include severe toothaches, sensitivity, discoloration and upraised lesions on your gums. X-rays and a thorough dental examination will help your dentist determine whether a root canal is your best option. Though root canal therapy has a reputation for being painful, the toothaches associated with an infected root are probably causing you more pain than the treatment will. We also have a number of sedation options to relieve your discomfort during treatment, including nitrous oxide and oral sedation.

The nerve is not a vital part of day-to-day function, so removing it will have no negative effect on the tooth. In fact, allowing it to decay further will eventually lead to more pain and bone loss. An over the counter pain medication usually takes care of immediate post-operative discomfort, and most patients return to normal activities the very next day. Root canal therapy is highly successful, and a tooth that has received the treatment can last you a lifetime. Especially when used in conjunction with a restoration (a crown or composite filling), no one will even notice a difference in your smile.