The Root Canal — Is It Safe?

Root Canal TherapyRoot canal. There we said it. Wait, don’t run from the room screaming. If the ever-helpful root canal were any more misunderstood, it would be right in there with quantum physics. It’s as if too many people have seen the old movie Marathon Man, where the ex-Nazi doctor, played by Sir Lawrence Olivier drills into the teeth of innocent Dustin Hoffman torturing him for information, all the while asking, “Is it safe?” Check it out on YouTube.

Yes, the much-feared root canal needs a new publicist. People think this procedure, which is critical to saving a tooth from being extracted, is something left over from the Dark Ages, right up there with being put on the rack and public flogging.

But Dr. Miller would like to set the record about this endodontic tooth saver, the root canal.

What happens to a tooth to lead to a root canal?

Every tooth has one or more roots that anchor the tooth into the jawbone. Nerves and blood vessels run through several tiny channels or “canals” in the root into the pulp at the center of the tooth. Sometimes, a cavity or fracture allows bacteria to penetrate through the enamel on the outer tooth into the pulp, infecting the tooth. If the infection grows, the tooth can develop an abscess. Now the tooth is in a bad way, as the bacteria spreads down into the root canals and possibly into the surrounding gum tissue.

At this point, a root canal will be necessary to:

  • Remove infected and dead tooth tissue
  • Minimize pain
  • Reduce swelling
  • Get rid of all the bacteria and keep it from spreading
  • Maintain function of the tooth
  • Salvage healthy tooth structure

Performing a root canal

This is where all of the misinformation lies. The fact is that when a tooth becomes infected all of the nerves are exposed, and this will lead to some serious Marathon Man-rescue pain. This is where people get confused, lumping this extreme tooth pain in with the root canal procedure. The root canal is done to remove the cause of the pain!

Here’s what Dr. Miller does.

In a root canal, once you’re given local anesthesia, Dr. Miller drills into the infected tooth to access the infected pulp. He then uses tiny files to work inside the tooth, diligently removing all the infected pulp, along with the tooth root (and all its nerves — the cause of the pain). Next, he thoroughly cleans and disinfects the interior of the entire tooth, and then the interior is filled with a rubber-based substance known as gutta-percha. A filling closes the hole and that may be all you need, or a crown may need to be placed on the tooth to protect and strengthen it. Most important, your tooth is saved, often for the remainder of your life!

How much does a root canal hurt?

Now in this era of “alternate facts,” let’s set the record straight. The truth is that a root canal procedure is no more painful than getting a typical filling. You read that right. Really the only pain is the slight prick of the initial anesthesia, along with some minor jaw aches afterward due to having your mouth open. Remember, the nerves and infection, which were the reason for the pain, are removed, and the tooth is an empty, nerveless shell afterward.

So, if you’re having tooth sensitivity that doesn’t go away or other pain that could point to an infected tooth, come to Dr. Miller’s and let’s check the tooth out. Call us at 503-640-9310 for an appointment.


Posted in: Root Canal

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