Root Canal Specialist During the Pandemic

img Meredith Y. Newman, DMD imgJanuary 19, 2021




Four Things I learned as a Root Canal Specialist During the Pandemic

I have worked as an Endodontist, or root canal specialist, in two epicenters of the virus – first in New York State during the early part of the spring, and then in Central California during the fall of 2020 and beyond. Much like many industries, there was a lot of unpredictability and change. However, I learned several very important lessons along the way.

During the coronavirus pandemic, I have worked as an Endodontist, or root canal specialist, in two epicenters of the virus – first in New York State during the early part of the spring, and then in Central California during the fall of 2020 and beyond. Much like many industries, there was a lot of unpredictability and change. However, I learned several very important lessons along the way.

The first thing I learned was how safe dental offices were. To date, there has not been a single outbreak of coronavirus in a dental office in the United States. This is definitely because Dental and Endodontic offices not only use strict standards for cleaning and disinfection, but also because Endodontists are decked out in head to toe with PPE. Especially when patients come in for a root canal, there are so many safety precautions in place to ensure their root canal goes smoothly and safely. Root canals are basically a procedure of disinfection and cleanliness, because we are cleaning the internal component of the tooth. When and Endodontist does a root canal, we using disinfectants within the tooth. Endodontists also use a rubber dam during a root canal, which protects the staff from the patient’s saliva, and acts as a mask for the patient! Plus, our staff is using disinfectants and cleaners in the rooms before and after the procedure. Root canals are about as safe of a procedure as one can get – not just during a pandemic, but any day! Dental offices have always been, and continue to be, an extremely safe place for a patient to visit.

Second, and related to my first point, I also learned that root canals truly do not care if there is a global pandemic or not. I think it’s a pretty well known fact that there’s never a good time for a root canal, and this was especially true during the coronavirus pandemic. Root canals are unpredictable and it’s hard to tell not only when you will have a toothache, but also how bad it will get if you don’t handle it quickly. During the first two weeks of the pandemic, my patients tried to wait on their root canal, hoping the whole thing would be over soon. But root canal pain is not the kind of pain you can ignore, and patients needed to have their root canals done as soon as they could by an Endodontist! We saw many patients who needed Endodontic care during the pandemic, because root canal pain can send someone to the ER if it doesn’t get into the right hands. In fact, over two million people go to the emergency room each year due to dental pain! You’d be much better off seeing an Endodontist than heading to the ER. Plus, root canal pain is definitely not something you want to try to put off, because it could cause a significant infection, which could make it harder for you to fight off other infections. If you are having tooth pain, trust your Endodontist! The offices are safe, and we are always prepared to help you by doing a root canal. Dental pain will not stop just because the coronavirus is still going. Dental pain can be treated quickly and effectively by a root canal, and Endodontists perform this essential service.

Speaking of which, I also learned just how essential Dentistry is. When most of the country shut down for three months, many dental offices were included. During that time, many people were only seen for emergencies, like extractions and root canals. This had a terrible impact on the dental health of many individuals! Not being able to receive routine dental care just means that small problems will become big problems. Think of this like a leak in your roof. A small leak doesn’t seem like a problem, but if you put it off long enough, the whole roof will rot and cave in. The same thing happens with dental work. Over the past year, I’ve noticed that small cavities, when left for three months, became big cavities. Many teeth that already had big cavities became teeth that needed root canals. And some of the teeth that may have been able to be saved with root canals ended up having to be taken out, because they decayed so badly a root canal isn’table to save them. I am so happy dentistry reopened to serve our patients, because all dental work is essential to prevent emergencies like root canals. If you have outstanding dental work, make sure you see a dentist quickly so they can fix and save your teeth!

Unfortunately, this was a very stressful year for everyone. Many people clench and grind their teeth when they are stressed, especially at night. This year, we Endodontists saw a huge increase in the number of people who were grinding and clenching, not just at night, but also during the day. As humans, we hold a lot of our stress in our face, jaw, neck, and shoulder muscles. This kind of stress can manifest in two ways. The first way is that patients can crack their teeth due to stress. Endodontists and dentists have seen a huge increase in the number of cracked teeth during the pandemic. Cracked teeth can lead to lots of problems, and usually require a root canal in order to be treated. Sometimes teeth can even crack in a way that cannot be saved. The second way this stress manifests is in extremely sore muscles in the face and jaw, chronic headaches, or pain in the teeth or tongue. Muscle spasms can make all a patient’s teeth hurt, and sometimes they think they may need many root canals! The good news is that muscle spasms do not require endodontic treatment to be fixed, but sometimes patients have to be referred to a TMJ specialist or put on muscle relaxants and steroids. Endodontists have seen a major increase in overall facial pain since the pandemic started, due to the amount of stress we have all been under. If you are holding tension in your jaw, or find yourself clenching or grinding at night or during the day, make sure you see a dentist to check for cracked teeth and make you a mouthguard to prevent the need for a root canal.

Overall, this was a difficult year for all of us, and it was definitely hard on our teeth. The last thing anyone wants is a root canal, but if you do need a root canal, make sure to have it treated quickly by an Endodontist, who can relieve your dental pain. If you haven’t been back to the dentist, make an appointment and have your chompers checked out to make sure they are healthy. Handle small problems quickly so they don’t become big problems like a root canal or extraction. If you are having unexplained facial pain, headaches, or if all your teeth hurt to chew, make sure to see a dentist to assess for tension and stress in your facial muscles. If you are grinding or clenching a lot, ensure you see a dentist to check for cracked teeth, which may require a root canal to prevent further pain and discomfort. And most importantly, rest assured that dental and endodontic offices are safe and hygienic places for patients, even during a pandemic!

 

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