Picture this: you head to the dentist for an aching tooth. Later on, they say you need a root canal. For some, this scenario might be a nightmare come true. They might have heard of horror stories about root canals from friends and acquaintances. Some might worry about the pain involved. Others might not even know what to do before a root canal.
Fortunately, not much. At most, all you need to do is find someone who can drive you home, take some antibiotics, and perhaps avoid eating before the procedure. The best way to know what to do before a root canal is to understand what it aims to do, and why you need it in the first place.
What do you do before a root canal, then? And how can you prepare for it?
Root canals take out an infected dental pulp
First off, why do you need a root canal in the first place? When it comes to severe dental damage, sometimes a dentist may opt to pull the tooth out altogether. They might choose to do this to prevent the infection from spreading to other tissues. And as we know, without proper treatment, this type of infection can prove fatal.
Of course, there are some caveats to having your tooth extracted. You might, for instance, feel a little conscious of the gap, depending on which tooth is missing. Missing teeth also impact your jaw’s bone density as it learns to accommodate less within the oral structure. It’s for this reason why dental extractions are a last-minute resort.
Where do root canals come in, then? Usually, they’re undertaken to prevent an extraction. Damage that penetrates the pulp cavity can be severe but can still be remedied by getting rid of the pulp. This removal is what a tooth canal is.
Because the pulp is a fibrous network of nerves and blood vessels, some people may worry about the pain that comes with it. Fortunately, you’re likely to feel little to no pain at all. Before the procedure, your dentist or endodontist will need to take a lot of X-rays to discern where to place the instruments. Once they’ve zoomed in on the infected tooth, your dentist or endodontist numbs the area with local anesthesia. You shouldn’t feel any pain.
Note that because the pulp has a lot of canals in it, your dentist or endodontist may opt to space the procedure over several appointments. While it can be tempting to have the root canal in one go, it is ideal to have the operation spaced out to remove every bit of pulp. Once done, your dentist or endodontist will then seal the area to prevent contamination. On your last appointment, they will place a crown or filling on the tooth to fortify it from breakage.
When preparing for a root canal, take note of the aftermath
Now that you know what to expect from a root canal, what do you do before it?
For one, take note of any parts of the procedure which might ring a bell for you. For instance, are you taking any medicines that may interact with the anesthesia? Do you think you might need a stronger dosage of it during the operation? Consider these aspects so you can plan what you need accordingly.
Aside from this, you might also want to know if you have any conditions that may affect how the procedure goes. If you have TMD, for instance, you might need to forego the rubber dam as it can aggravate your jaw.
Finally, know that your dentist might have to abort the procedure if any changes may lessen its chance of success. If you’re concerned about this, it’s always best to consult your dentist or endodontist about the procedure beforehand. You and your dentist should be able to work hand in hand to get the care you need.