I am proud to say that I have all my own teeth at the age of 65. While that may not sound unusual to some people, everyone in my family who is my age or older wears dentures. I always tell people that that flossing is the key to good dental health. I have arthritis in my hands, but I don't let it keep me from flossing every day. My trick is to use those little "flossers" you can buy at the drug store. They have plastic handles floss stretched out on top of the handle. These make flossing easier on days when my arthritis is acting up. I started this blog to let other people know that they can keep their teeth healthy into old age when they take care of them. If you have hand pain, find ways to make flossing easier, like I did.
Before determining whether a root canal is necessary or not, your dentist will likely ask you several questions regarding any symptoms you may be experiencing and perform a thorough examination of the problematic tooth. Below are the five main tests that you can expect to experience when a dentist thinks you may need a root canal.
A visual examination is usually painless and quick. Your dentist will ask you to open your mouth and will examine the tooth for discoloration, cavities, or any signs of infection along your tooth's roots. They will likely use a mirror to push your cheek or lips away and see your tooth better and a pick to scrape away particles and see cavities more clearly. If you are already in pain before your visit, you may experience some slight discomfort while your dentist is probing, but it will likely be minor.
Your dentist may notice that you have a problematic tooth on your annual x-rays even if you are experiencing no pain, or you may come into their office with painful symptoms. Either way, your dentist will likely order several x-rays of the problematic tooth from various angles. This will allow them to see if there is any bone loss or other signs of infection near your roots. X-rays are quick and relatively painless. If the problem tooth is a molar, you may experience slight pressure along your cheeks as you bite down on the x-ray film. However, if you are severely uncomfortable, you should let the x-ray technician know.
A percussive test involves light tapping on the problem tooth. Your dentist will turn one of their tools around and lightly tap the top of your tooth with the heavier end. They will ask you to raise your hand if you experience any pain. If you do not experience any pain, they may tap harder to see if pain occurs. This can help your dentist determine exactly which tooth is causing pain if you are feeling pain along several teeth.
Teeth with pulp infections either have a sharp, strong reaction to cold or hot or have a lingering, dull reaction. Healthy teeth may have a slight reaction to cold or hot, but the pain subsides as soon as the temperature reverts to normal. Most dentists rely on cold tests, as they are safer and generally less painful than heat tests.
During a cold test, your dentist will press a cotton ball dipped in a cooling spray against your tooth. They will ask you to raise your hand if you experience any pain, and they will immediately remove the cotton ball. They will generally ask you to keep your hand up until the pain subsides or to tell them when the pain subsides. They will time your reaction and ask you how the pain felt to determine if your tooth is healthy.
Heat tests work similarly to cold tests, but are slightly more dangerous because a hot instrument is placed in your mouth, which can cause minor burns if you move. Also, more patients experience severe pain when heat is applied.
For electric tests, you dentist will place a small electrode on the surface of your tooth and metal grounding hook on the opposite side of your mouth. They will then send a small electrical current through your tooth, and they will then ask you to raise your hand if you experience a tingling sensation. You should not experience any pain. Your dentist will determine if your tooth is still alive based on how reactive it is to the electrical current.
For more information on root canals, talk to a dentist like Samuel D Knight, DDS.