Root Canal

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“Tell someone you are going to get a Root Canal, and typically they respond with condolences. The Root Canal treatment has been characterized as a procedure of sheer doom for many years. However, modern techniques and technologies have both streamlined the procedure and almost entirely eliminated post-operative complications.”
Chris Blume, DDS
Why do I Need a Root Canal?
Because the tooth will not heal by itself. Patients needing a root canal typically have a crack in their tooth and/or an infection or condition inflaming the dental pulp in their tooth. Without treatment, your condition will only worsen. You may develop an infection, or an existing infection may spread to adjacent teeth. Also, the bone around the tooth will begin to degenerate and the tooth may fall out. Pain usually worsens until one is forced to seek emergency dental attention. At this point, tooth extraction is often the only alternative.
What is the Dental Pulp?
Inside the tooth is a hollow chamber filled with soft tissue. This soft tissue is the “pulp.” It consists of a nerve, vein, arteriole and lymphatic tissue. The pulp is living tissue whose job it is to maintain the tooth in a healthy state.
Why Does Dental Pulp Die?
If the pulp is infected, or another condition causes it to become inflamed, the affected pulp typically swells, much like an infected finger would. However, since the pulp is encased in hard-tooth structure, it has no room to swell. Thus, patients with an inflamed pulp often experience moderate to intense pain. Over time, the inability to swell will cut off blood supply to the pulp, and the resulting oxygen deprivation causes the pulp to die. Following pulp death, the entire tooth fills with bacteria, causing an abscess. At this point, the tooth must be treated with a root canal or extracted.
How is a Root Canal Done?
First, the tooth is opened, giving the doctor access to the pulp chamber. The dead tissue and bacteria are cleaned out with very small files that go down to the end of the root(s). The pulp chamber and the canals within the roots are enlarged and flushed with a germicide until they are clean. The canals are then filled to eliminate or reduce the chances of harboring bacteria. The tooth is then typically covered with a crown.
Why Must a Tooth Be Crowned after a Root Canal?
Once a tooth has been treated with a root canal, it is non-living and very brittle. If the tooth is not crowned, it could break under pressure (such as from chewing and grinding) and possibly require extraction. With a few exceptions, it is standard dental procedure to crown all teeth following root canals.
Will I have Discomfort Following Treatment?
This is certainly possible. A root canal is a form of surgery, and post-operative discomfort can occur. Most discomfort goes away in a few days and can be treated with over-the-counter medications. However, if your discomfort continues or you experience severe pain, please call our office.
Why do I have to take Antibiotics?
An abscessed tooth is an infected tooth. We can remove infection-causing bacteria inside the tooth but not from the bone around it. The antibiotic will do that. It is very important to take antibiotics as prescribed.
Can a Root Canal Fail?
Yes. Current endodontic techniques are very successful. However, there is a small percentage of teeth that will not respond to therapy. In these cases, we might refer you to a specialist for further treatment and/or recommend extraction.