Something about hearing we need a root canal sends chills up our spine and fright through our minds. What is it about that term that is so fear inducing? All of us have many root canals, they are present in each tooth we have in our mouth, nothing worrying about that, is there? But when we have an infected tooth that has to have its cans cleaned out, the term takes on a whole new meaning.

Relax, the pain that you have before having the procedure is probably a hundred times greater than the procedure itself. If you have a disappointed tooth, and the nerve of it has died, it can not possibly hurt to have a dentist poking around in it, can it? And that's what happens in a root canal.

A root canal is performed to save an infected tooth, one where the tooth pulp and the nerve have been so badly damaged that they need to be removed, so lessening the pain you have in the area and allowing you to go back to eating on both sides of your mouth. You may need the procedure if you have an infection in the tooth itself or surrounding jaw bone, cracks in the tooth that have allowed bacteria to enter, or facial trauma from any number of reasons. They can also be necessary if you have had many dental procedures in that general area that have led to a weakening in a specific tooth.

First the dentist will make an access hole in the tooth with a drill, and then they place different sized files down into the tooth's canal to clean out the gunk that was causing the problem. The nerve and pulp (something found in the middle of all teeth in a little pocket) are removed and once finished, all traces of bacteria and decay are out of your mouth. Nerves in our teeth run from the pocket of pulp, which also contains connective tissue and blood vessels, down the canals to the bottom tip of the tooth. Once the nerve dies, there is no sensation whateversoever associated with that tooth.

After the tooth is cleaned out, the dentist will use a sealer paste and a rubber like compound to fill the canal and finally a filling is added to close the access hole. Because a tooth that has had a root canal procedure is weakened by the effects of the decay, most dentists recommend that you have a second procedure to get a crown to further protect the tooth and make it stronger and more durable for years to come.

A root canal has for whatever reason received a bad rap over the years as the most painful thing you can have done at the dentist. In reality, the pain you had from the decaying tooth in the first place, which may include a certain toothache, sensitivity and gum swelling is the worst part of the whole procedure.