Root canal treatment (endodontics) treats disorders of the nerve (also called the pulp) of the tooth. In the past, a tooth with a diseased or infected nerve had to be removed. In 95 percent of the cases today, however, this is no longer true. We believe in saving teeth instead of removing them. We make every effort to help you keep your natural teeth for a lifetime!
The following are the most common factors contributing to a need for root canal treatment:
• Trauma, such as a physical blow to a tooth or a constant striking of a tooth in the opposite jaw that traumatizes the tooth
• Physical irritation caused by deep decay or a very large filling
• Severe gum disease
Regardless of the initial cause, the pulp of the teeth becomes irritated and infected. Bacteria grow within the tooth pulp, causing pressure and pain, sometimes accompanied by swelling of the face. Sometimes the deterioration of the pulp happens so gradually that little pain is felt. Either way, eventually the bacteria will destroy the pulp. As this happens, the bone surrounding the tooth will become infected and abscessed, which may lead to the destruction of the bone surrounding the tooth.
(If a cavity forms and is allowed to go untreated for too long, it can penetrate to the root pulp where an infection can occur.)
If we determine through x-rays and a clinical examination that a root canal treatment is necessary, we will schedule a series of appointments for you. It is important that you keep these appointments to prevent delays in treatment and healing, which can affect the outcome. It’s also essential that you take all antibiotics and medications prescribed so that you may start healing and reduce the swelling.
First, we want to relieve any discomfort you might be experiencing and ensure your comfort throughout the treatment. When necessary, an anesthetic is used to numb the tooth and surrounding area. The tooth may be isolated with a rubber dam, which confines the treatment area and protects the mouth from bacteria and chemical agents. An opening is made through the crown of the tooth into the pulp.
The root canal area inside your tooth is cleaned, enlarged and shaped. Then, depending on your individual case, the root canal and pulp chamber may be permanently filled and sealed. In some cases, we may place a temporary medication in the tooth to control bacterial growth and reduce infection.
In some cases, the tooth may be left open in order to allow the infection to drain. We will decide what is right for your case and do whatever is necessary to assure your comfort.
Throughout the root canal procedure, we take x-rays to ensure that all of the infected pulp is removed and that the walls inside the canal are smooth.
To complete the process, the root canal and pulp chamber are permanently filled and sealed.
Finally, the tooth is fully restored to the chewing function.
Once the root canal treatment has been completed, you should consider the following:
Brittleness — a non-vital (endodontically treated) tooth is more brittle than a vital one and is more susceptible to fracture. Therefore, in most cases, we recommend that your root canal tooth be crowned following treatment.
Discoloration — you may notice that your endodontically treated tooth (especially the front teeth) has undergone a change in color. Though this discoloration is of no medical concern, you may be interested in having the tooth whitened. Be sure to ask us about tooth whitening if we do not decide to place a crown on the tooth.
Throughout your root canal treatment, you may have questions or concerns not covered here. We will make every effort to ensure your comfort during root canal treatment, and we’re happy to answer any questions you may have. Our goal is to help you preserve your natural teeth for a lifetime, so you can smile with confidence! If you have been told that a root canal is necessary to save one of your teeth, it is important that you understand why this procedure is necessary and what happens during root canal treatment. Our goal is to help you preserve your natural teeth for a lifetime, so you can smile with confidence.