Root Canal Therapy

What is root canal therapy?
Root canal therapy, also know as endodontic therapy, is a commonly performed procedure where the nerve canals within a tooth are cleaned and disinfected.  A filling material is then placed inside the canal to seal it off from bacteria.

Why do I need a root canal?
Root canal therapy is required when the nerve and blood supply inside a tooth gets contaminated with bacteria, causing the tissue to degenerate.  Bacteria enters the nerve canals when decay is left untreated and advances deep into a tooth.  Root canal therapy may also be needed due to cracked teeth or fillings, trauma to a tooth, or large fillings that are in close proximity to the nerve. 

If left untreated, bacteria in the tooth will eventually travel through the inside of the tooth and into the surrounding bone.  At this point a bacterial infection, or abscess, forms and if not treated, will lead to bone loss under the roots of the tooth, along with pain and possible swelling.  

What are the common symptoms or signs that a Root Canal is needed? 

  • Significant pain to hot/cold foods and beverages
  • Severe throbbing pain that may wake you up in the middle of the night
  • Pain to chewing
  • Swelling or presence of pus around a tooth  

What does the Root Canal procedure involve?
First, we will take an X-ray of the tooth, perform an examination, and make sure that the tooth can be saved.  After numbing the tooth with local anesthetic, the dentist cleans out any decay in the tooth and removes the inflamed or dead nerve tissue.  The canals of the tooth are thoroughly cleaned and shaped to remove all debris and bacteria inside of the tooth.  We will then place a filling material, called gutta percha, along with a sealing agent in order to prevent fluids and bacteria from reentering. 

After the root canal is completed, it is typically recommended to have a crown placed on the tooth to keep the tooth sealed off from bacteria and to prevent the tooth from fracturing. 

Risks associated with Root Canal Therapy
After completion of root canal therapy you might feel some discomfort for few days following the treatment.  To alleviate the discomfort you can follow the dentist’s recommendation of taking an over the counter pain medication.  In cases where a tooth has a large infection, the dentist may prescribe an antibiotic and prescription-strength pain reliever to help reduce any remaining infection. 

Following root canal therapy you should avoid chewing directly on the repaired tooth until its final restoration has occurred or else your tooth may crack.  Also, keep in mind that the longer you wait to complete the final restoration the more likely bacteria will reinfect the treated canal – requiring the therapy to be performed all over again.  

What alternatives are there to root canal therapy?
In the event that a tooth cannot be saved with root canal therapy, or that someone does not wish to have the procedure done, the only alternative is to have the tooth extracted.  The tooth can then be replaced with either a dental implant or a bridge.  Your dentist can discuss which option is best for you.


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