We offer preventive, restorative, and cosmetic dentistry services for all of your smile and oral health needs. When our patients suffer from painful toothaches, they often find themselves in need of the endodontic therapy known as root canal treatment.
Endodontic therapy refers to the treatment of the inside of the tooth, also known as the pulp, which contains the nerve endings and blood vessels that keep it alive. When the pulp becomes painfully infected, a root canal treatment will remove the inside of the tooth and replace it with a long-lasting filling to preserve function and appearance. A root canal leaves the tooth dead, technically, but will allow you to continue using it indefinitely. When decay and infection have breached the pulp, root canal treatment is always preferable to extraction.
When Is a Root Canal Needed?
When tooth decay or damage from physical trauma goes beyond the enamel and dentin and into the pulp of a tooth, a root canal is the only way preserve the tooth. A root canal may be needed for a number of reasons; a deep cavity, a cracked or bruised tooth, or a tooth that has previously had a dental filling are some possibilities.
Although the human body is usually very good at fighting infection, it cannot repair the inside of a tooth. It cannot clear the infection on its own, because the space is so small that the infection blocks out the blood supply, which the body’s natural way of bringing in cells to fight infection. With the “highway” shut down at the root, there is no way for the body to fight the infection, so it only becomes more severe. This eventually results in pain and, if untreated, can affect neighboring teeth or lead to the pain and swelling that indicates an abscess.
If you experience a painful toothache that does not go away, your pulp may have become infected, and a root canal will be necessary. Some patients may not have a throbbing toothache, but experience pain when pressure is applied to the tooth or when eating hot and cold foods. If you have these symptoms, we can take an x-ray of the area to determine whether the tooth’s root has become infected, or another diagnosis is given.
What Is a Root Canal?
Root canal treatment has four steps, essentially: (1) the living tissues of the pulp are thoroughly removed, (2) the remaining space inside the roots is cleaned and disinfected, (3) the roots are filled with a flexible and durable substance called gutta-percha, and finally (4) a filling or crown is applied to restore the visible portion of the tooth, above the gum line.
A root canal is an excellent way to extend the usefulness of a tooth and avoid having to remove it completely. During the procedure, the infected tissues need to be removed and the entire pulp chamber thoroughly disinfected. Our intention is to create the cleanest environment possible before placing the filling inside of the pulp chamber, to prevent reinfection from bacteria or tooth decay. Once the infection is gone, the pain subsides—though discomfort may linger for a couple of days. The tooth is restored with a filling or crown, depending on the circumstances.
A Painless Solution?
Root canals may have a reputation for being slow, painful procedures, but we use highly effective anesthetics, so you will experience little to no sensation in the affected area during treatment. Most people report full numbness, and it’s not uncommon for patients to fall asleep during the procedure.