While more and more Americans are becoming aware of the benefits of preserving natural teeth, you may still find yourself with a number of questions and no little anxiety when a root canal is the suggested option for saving a diseased or damaged tooth. Root canals can be an intricate procedure, depending on the extent of the damage to the tooth. Occasionally, sedation is called for. However, most of the time, patients are awake during the procedure and fully aware of each step the endodontist is taking. Each case is different, though, so let’s look at the issue a little more broadly.
How Endodontists Manage Pain And Patient Awareness During Root Canals
- For most root canals, local anesthesia is used to numb the area around the affected tooth. This is a necessary step because your endodontist will be removing pulp and nerve fibers from your tooth. You will likely be fully awake during the entire procedure. Your mouth, including your lips, may feel numb for several hours after the procedure, so it is important to be careful if you eat or drink before full feeling returns to the numbed area. Be sure to follow your endodontist’s guidelines for eating and drinking, though.
- For patients with dental anxiety or dental phobia, some level of sedation may be necessary for the root canal to be a success. Sedation can range from minimal (just to take the edge off your jitters) to deep (where you may be barely conscious, but able to be awakened). It can be delivered by inhalation, orally, or intravenously. General anesthesia – during which you are completely unconscious – is rarely used for root canals and requires special training to safely administer.
Dr. Allen, of the Phoenix Endodontic Group, encourages patients to discuss questions related to wakefulness and anxiety with their endodontist during the planning stages of their root canal. “In our practice, we make sure all our patients are fully informed and arrive ready for their root canal,” she says. “We can discuss your individual needs prior to beginning the procedure and offer solutions that will help you feel comfortable, safe, and pain-free.”