What is a Root Canal?
A Root Canal is the term used to describe the natural cavity within the center of the tooth. The pulp or pulp chamber is the soft area within the root canal. The tooth’s nerve lies within the root canal.
Root canal treatment (also referred to as root canal therapy or endodontic therapy) is made necessary when a cavity is allowed, through neglect, to reach all the way to this pulp. (Regular cleanings and checkups prevent and detect problems early) Sometimes deep restorations or trauma to a tooth may cause the nerve to be damaged to the point it needs root canal therapy, also. Once this occurs the pulp becomes infected, and can even extend through the root tip and begin to eat away at the surrounding bone (this is an abscess). By the time the pulp is infected it must be treated, and cannot heal on its own. It can even weaken the entire immune system. This is dangerous, not to mention very painful. Symptoms that the pulp has become infected may include sensitivity to hot/cold or sweets, pain, swelling, pain to biting or pressure, and a bad taste in the mouth. Sometimes, however, no symptoms are apparent and the person is unaware of any problem until a checkup.
A root canal is then performed to clean out the infected tooth pulp, and disinfect the canals of the tooth. The only other treatment would be to extract the tooth. Once the infection is resolved, the canal(s) are filled in to prevent any further infection. Usually a core build-up and crown is recommended for restoring a tooth that has had root canal therapy.
We perform root canals on a regular basis. This treatment is the best way to combat decay and stop infections in your teeth. During a root canal procedure, the nerve and pulp are removed and the inside of the tooth is cleaned and sealed. Without treatment, the tissue surrounding the tooth will become infected and abscesses may form.
Why Does Tooth Pulp Need to Be Removed?
When your tooth’s nerve tissue is damaged, unwanted bacteria will start to collect in the pulp chamber. The build up of this bacteria can lead to infections and even abscessed teeth. It is important to remove the pulp before an abscess has a chance to form to avoid infections spreading to the roots of a tooth.
Allowing a root canal to become infected can also cause swelling of the gums, face and neck area. You can also experience bone loss near the infected tooth. For these reasons, it is very important to schedule your regular check ups, as these issues are easily avoided when caught early on.
What to Expect During a Root Canal
If you require a root canal, you can expect to visit our office at least once, if not more, depending on the current condition of your teeth. We have specialists that are seasoned in performing root canals. After an initial exam, you will meet with the specialist and discuss the procedure for your root canal. An x-ray will be taken so we can see your entire tooth and determine whether there are any signs of infections present. We use local anesthesia to numb the area around the tooth and make you as comfortable as possible. Most patients report feeling very little since the nerve in the tooth is usually no longer a receptor for pain. Your dentist will place a rubber dam around your tooth to keep it dry during the procedure. A hole is drilled into the tooth so the pulp and any bacteria can be removed. Any debris is then flushed away, leaving the area clean. Once the dentist deems the tooth completely clean, it is sealed. In some cases, infections require medication, so you may go a few days without a seal until the infection is completely gone. In this case, you will be given a temporary filling to protect the tooth.
What to Expect During Recovery
It is normal to experience some discomfort for a few days following a root canal procedure. The area around your tooth may feel sensitive and be a little inflamed. Over the counter pain relievers are safe to use and they are enough to control the discomfort during healing. Your specialist will go over these medications with you after your final procedure. Since only a local anesthesia is used, you can go about your daily activities or return to work the same day.
How Long Will My Root Canal Last?
We perform root canals when deemed necessary because they are a highly successful procedure. The root canals done on our patients can actually last a lifetime when they are taken care of properly. Practicing healthy oral hygiene at home is the best way to maintain and improve your oral health. Root canals are not easy to see either. Unless you are closely examined, people will not be able to notice a sealed tooth just by talking to you.
What Are the Signs That Root Canal Therapy Is Needed?
If you have experienced any of the following symptoms, you may be in need of a root canal. Regardless of the diagnosis, it is important to come in for an exam to find out what is causing your discomfort before a serious infection takes place.
Severe toothache pain: If you have severe pain while chewing, or when any pressure is applied to a certain area of your mouth.
Sensitivity to hot and cold: If you experience sensitivity or pain while eating hot or cold foods to the point you avoid them or have to stop eating them.
Discoloration of a tooth: If you notice a certain tooth or teeth are no longer white but look more stained or yellow in color compared to your other teeth.
Swelling and tenderness in nearby gums: If you notice pain in a tooth is spreading and causing inflammation throughout your gums.
A pimple on your gum: If you notice what looks like a pimple on the gum next to a tooth. This could be a sign of an abscess which should be taken very seriously.
No symptoms: Sometimes patients do not notice anything is wrong or do not experience any symptoms. This is why it is so important to have regular check ups and cleanings with your dentist.