The Tooth You Save May Just Be Your Own — Root Canals

Everyone hates to hear certain phrases:
“Your mother-in-law is going to move in with us.”
“Our flight will be a little bit delayed.”
“The boss wants to see you, in private.”

Or “You need to have a root canal.”

Instantly people conjure up images of the scene from Marathon Man where the evil Nazi doctor played by Lawrence Olivier is drilling the teeth of innocent Dustin Hoffman. Everyone thinks root canals hurt like nothing else.


Modern root canals are no more painful than having a typical cavity filled. After all, you’re getting the same local anesthesia so that you don’t feel anything during the procedure. And soreness afterwards is minimal at best.

root canalSo, why the misconceptions about root canals? It’s probably the pain BEFORE the root canal that gets people’s attention. When a tooth has suffered extreme trauma (like in a sports collision) or when decay has reached the interior pulp of the tooth the pulp becomes infected or dies. This increases blood flow to the area and pressure builds inside the tooth causing pain. This pain is especially evident when drinking or eating hot or cold foods or beverages or when chewing.

What is a root canal?

A root canal removes all the infected and dead pulp in the canal that runs down through the tooth root. When a tooth is healthy this canal or canals are the life support system of the tooth. But once the pulp becomes infected it all needs to be removed. Once this is done the empty canal is then filled with gutta percha, a rubberlike material they used to use to make golf balls, and the tooth is sealed with a filling, or if lots of the tooth is lost because of decay, maybe a crown. When the tooth is empty, it no longer has any nerve sensations, so it can’t cause any more pain.

A root canal is the only way to save a tooth that has extensive decay or has been affected by trauma. The alternative is extraction, which is always the last resort.

Do you have a tooth that is very sensitive to hot and cold? It could be decay and you could need a root canal to save your tooth. Call Dr. Miller at 503-640-9310 and let’s have a look.

Posted in: Root Canal

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