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Question: What is the pulp?

Answer: The pulp contains blood vessels, nerves, and connective tissue that are responsible for forming the surrounding Dentin and Enamel during tooth development. The pulp receives its nourishment supply from vessels which enter the end of the root. Although the pulp is important during development of the tooth, it is not necessary for function of the tooth. The tooth continues to be nourished by the tissues surrounding it even after the pulp is removed.

Question: Why do Root Canals have such a bad reputation?

Answer: The vast majority of root canal procedures proceed painlessly, both during and after each visit! With modern techniques and anesthetics people report that having a root canal treatment is about as unremarkable as having a cavity filled. On the other hand, some people present with what we call a hot tooth.  A hot tooth is one in which the nerve is alive, but badly inflamed.  The tooth is generally already very painful, especially to hot or cold stimuli.  These are the ones that require multiple anesthetic injections to get numb. 

Question: Is it normal to feel sore after a root canal?

Answer: Yes, it is normal to experience a little soreness after the appointment.  This may be due to the injection, the necessity of keeping the mouth open for a long time, or the treatment.  Your temporary filling will be hard enough to bite on within approximately a half-hour, but avoid biting or chewing on the treated tooth if it hurts, especially if there was pain or infection present before the procedure.

Question: What should I do if I am still feeling pain after a root canal?

Answer: Over-the-counter analgesics like acetaminophen, aspirin or ibuprofen usually relieve the discomfort. Other medications can be prescribed as well, but they are rarely required. Should the pain last for more than a few days, or if severe pain or swelling occurs, call your Endodontist. Remember, if your tooth hurt before you came in for treatment, it may take a while to heal.

Question: What should I do if I have a swelling (abscess)?

Answer: The first thing you should do is make an appointment with your dentist to evaluate what the cause of the swelling is and to determine if antibiotics are necessary. For minor swellings caused by gum irritations, hot salt water rinses may be indicated. Abscesses (swellings) are usually caused by untreated cavities, cracked teeth, failed root canals or extensive gum disease. There are basic types of abscesses. Gingival (gum) abscesses involve only the gum tissue. This is evident as a pus-filled swelling that may have originated from an inflamed periodontal pocket. The dentist will treat this by cleaning out the gum pocket and draining it. Hot rinses and antibiotics may also be needed. A Traumatic gum abscess comes from a trauma (such as irritating the area with a toothbrush, or jabbing the gums with something sharp like a crust of bread, chip or bone). Traumatically induced abscesses usually heal on their own with the aid of warm salt water rinses. A tooth abscess or root abscess involves pus enclosed in the tissues of the jaw bone at the tip of an infected tooth. Usually this abscess originates from a bacterial infection that has accumulated within the nerve area of the tooth. In some cases, a tooth abscess may perforate bone and start draining into the surrounding tissues creating local facial swelling. Sometimes the lymph glands in the neck will become swollen and tender in response to the infection. Treatment would be root canal and sometimes antibiotics if swelling is significant. If you should have any form of swelling, fever or pain, immediately contact your dentist.

Question: Couldn’t I just have my tooth removed instead of having a root canal?

Answer: You could, but then adjoining teeth may shift and interfere with biting and chewing if you remove the tooth and fail to replace it.  You may also consider placing an implant or fill in a missing space with a ‘dummy tooth’ as part of a fixed or removable bridge. A fixed bridge may require removing adjacent, healthy tooth structure, and may be expensive and require even more dental treatment. If you can save your own tooth with any degree of long term predictability, then that would always be the first choice.

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