Root Canal Therapy
In the dental world there isn’t another procedure more misunderstood than the root canal. People fear these procedures as if they were medieval torture, when in actuality they don’t hurt any more than having a filling. And root canals are lifesavers — allowing a patient to keep his or her tooth instead of having it extracted. Root canal to the rescue! Since a root canal is sometimes the only option to save a tooth, let’s clear up the misperceptions.
What is a root canal?
To understand a root canal, you must first understand what makes up a tooth. Your teeth have three layers: the outer enamel layer that covers the entire visible part of the tooth; under the enamel is another hard layer called the dentin; and then inside the dentin is the pulp. The pulp is where all the blood vessels, nerves, and connective tissue are found. The pulp extends from the upper tooth down to the tip of the roots.
Where the roots run are called the root canals. If a tooth has a deep crack or chip, if it has trauma from contact or even from braces, or if decay penetrates the enamel and the dentin, the pulp can become infected. Once infection has entered the pulp, the tooth needs a root canal or it will eventually need to be extracted. This is because everything inside the pulp needs to be removed, the essence of a root canal.
Root Canal Symptoms
- Severe toothache
- Prolonged sensitivity to hot or cold temperatures
When does a tooth need a root canal?
If decay and infection have made their way into the pulp of one of your teeth you will know because you’ll have some intense pain. The tooth will be extremely sensitive to hot and cold; it will be tender when chewing; the tooth may become discolored; and there may be swelling and tenderness of the surrounding gum tissue. In rare cases, a patient won’t feel any symptoms (usually when a tooth has had some trauma), but we can see the decay on x-rays during your twice-yearly exams/cleanings with us at Ridgeview Family Dental.
What happens if I don’t get a root canal?
Because of the misperceptions about this procedure, patients put off treating a tooth that needs a root canal. This is a mistake. If the pulp is infected, the tissue surrounding the tooth may develop an abscess, a puss-filled pocket that extends up the roots of the tooth. If this happens, infection can spread throughout the body. Plus, the tooth will no longer be able to be saved and will require extraction.
How is a root canal done? These are the steps taken when performing a root canal:
- The tooth and surrounding tissue are numbed and a dental dam is placed to keep the area dry.
- A small hole is drilled in the crown of the infected tooth.
- Very small files are then inserted to clean out the entire pulp cavity and root canals, removing the pulp, decayed nerve tissues, and other debris.
- The empty tooth is flushed with sodium hypochlorite to remove any last debris and kill any lingering bacteria.
- The empty pulp chamber and root canals are then filled with a rubber-based material known as gutta-percha and sealed with adhesive cement.
- A composite resin filling is placed over the access hole.
- In most cases, a crown is then placed over the tooth to protect it and give it extra strength. To do so, the tooth is shaved down on all sides and the top and impressions are made and sent to the dental lab. We place a temporary crown on the tooth until your final crown is fabricated. Then that crown is permanently cemented onto your tooth and you’re good to go.
Are root canals painful?
When a tooth is infected it is extremely painful, and this is probably where the myths about root canals started. In reality, a root canal should be no more painful than having a cavity filled. You feel nothing during the actual root canal, thanks to local anesthesia. Afterwards, you will have some soreness, mainly due to having your mouth open for a period of time. Plus, your surrounding tissues may still be reacting to the infection and need to calm down. If you’re convinced a root canal has to hurt, consider this — the procedure removes all of the infected nerves in the tooth, so the tooth no longer has any sensation.
Are there any risks involved with a root canal?
This is a safe and effective procedure. However, if the root canal is not completed properly or if all of the infection isn’t removed, the infection will grow and eventually start to cause pain again. If pain returns, the tooth will need to be entered and cleaned out again. The need for excellence in this area is why Dr. Young, Dr. Weststeyn, and Dr Keith refer their patients in need of a root canal to an Endodontic specialist.
What can I expect after my root canal?
Your tooth that had the root canal should be pain free and fully functional. If it is an eye tooth, it may not require a crown. But if a molar was treated, a protective crown is recommended. People think that an empty tooth is destined to fall out eventually, but this is not the case. Teeth only need blood vessels and connective tissue while they are developing in our childhood years. Adult teeth can last the remainder of the patient’s life after having a root canal.
root canal Recovery
After a root canal there isn’t any recovery: you can use your tooth immediately. As mentioned above, your jaw may be a bit sore from being open during the procedure, and your inflamed gums (from the infection) may need to calm down, but the infection is completely gone. Your tooth will feel immediately better! Some tenderness when biting on the tooth may still be present for a short period.
How do I care for my tooth that had the root canal?
You simply need to provide good home hygiene, brushing twice daily and flossing. If you take care of the tooth and the surrounding gums, it will endure. Also, be sure to keep up your twice-yearly professional cleanings and exams with Dr. Young and our team. That way we can easily spot if anything changes with your tooth.
Schedule A Consultation
If you would like to learn more about our Root Canal treatment, please schedule a consultation with our team at 660.747.9117