Endodontic Therapy / Root Canal
Endodontic therapy is a very common dental treatment. It is also known as a root canal, and it is a procedure that aims to remove infection and inflammation from the internal component of a tooth in order to protect the tooth from causing pain, swelling, and future infection.
Root canals can become necessary for many reasons. Some of the most common reasons to need a root canal are due to:
- A large cavity. When you have a large cavity, that cavity is filled with bacteria. If the germs find a pathway to the dental pulp tissue, they can cause infection. If this is left untreated, a large abscess can form. When infected tissue is not removed, pain and swelling can result. A root canal will remove both the large cavity and the bacteria that caused the problem, bringing the tooth back to health.
- A crack or tooth fracture. When a tooth either cracks or breaks, it allows bacteria to reach the internal component of the tooth. Sometimes these cracks are very small and cannot be seen by the naked eye. But if bacteria can invade the nerve, it can cause pain and infection. A root canal will remove the nerve so that pain does not continue.
- Trauma. If a tooth is traumatized due to an accident, sometimes the force of the trauma can cause a nerve to die. A root canal is necessary to remove the nerve before it causes discoloration, pain, or infection.
- Extensive dental work. Sometimes you need a root canal even though you’ve done everything right! If you’ve had recent dental work, or a deep dental filling, sometimes the nerve does not respond positively to the treatment, and starts to die. A root canal can prevent the problem from getting any worse.
Root canals are an extremely important treatment, because they help prevent pain and infection. Ignoring a toothache is never a good option. Not only does this put you at risk for pain and injury to the jawbone, it can also be detrimental to your overall health. Without the proper treatment, your tooth may have to be extracted.
Teeth that require endodontic therapy can be mildly painful, severely painful, or they may not be painful at all. Some signs that you may need a root canal include:
- A severe toothache
- Pain when chewing on your tooth, or when applying pressure to the tooth.
- Significant, prolonged sensitivity to hot or cold
- A tooth changing color, or sudden dark discoloration of the tooth: either red, brown, or black.
- Tenderness, swelling, or drainage from the nearby gum tissue around the tooth
What happens during endodontic therapy?
Luckily, nowadays, most root canal treatments take only one visit. Some severely infected teeth may require more than one visit to complete the root canal.
During these visits, the first thing the Endodontist does is diagnose the underlying issue with the tooth. Then, you will be anesthetized (numbed) thoroughly so the process is as comfortable as possible. Once you are comfortable, Dr. Newman removes the tissue from the internal component of the tooth that was causing the problem. She also removes any decay, assesses for cracks and fractures, and resolves any discoloration. After the tissue is removed, the internal aspect of the tooth will be fully cleaned, disinfected, and sealed.
If your tooth is severely infected, it may be necessary to put medication within the tooth to fully kill the bacteria and infection. In these circumstances, you will return for a short second visit to have the tooth fully sealed.
Most root canals only take about an hour to complete, and recovery from a root canal is generally quick.
Once the root canal is complete, you will return to your general dentist for a final restoration in the form of a filling or anchored filling. Your dentist may recommend placing what’s know as a crown or cap to strengthen and reinforce the tooth from fracture. As long as you continue to care for your teeth and gums with regular dental visits and homecare, your root canal and tooth can last a lifetime.
Most teeth can be saved by a root canal. However, there are some special circumstances in which a root canal may not be possible. Some of these include:
- If the roots are severely fractured
- If the tooth is extremely mobile, or does not have good bone support
- If the tooth is badly decayed beyond the point of being able to be restored properly
- If the root canals are not accessible
Endodontic therapy is intended to prevent you from needing an extraction. Missing teeth can cause problems with smiling, chewing, and speaking, as well as causing longer-term problems like shifting of teeth and having an overall negative impact to your health. A root canal can restore your smile and promote your overall oral health.
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