Years ago, diseased or damaged teeth were almost always removed. Today, modern dental techniques often make it possible to save the damaged teeth. One of the most common techniques is root canal therapy, or in dental terminology, endodontic treatment.
Root canal therapy is generally necessary when the pulp, which contains the nerves and blood supply of the tooth, is diseased or damaged. This may be caused by a number of situations. For example, bacteria from a deep cavity can enter the pulp and cause infection. Or the tooth may be injured in such a way that the blood supply is ruptured or the nerve damaged. A third possibility is a fracture of the tooth itself, which exposes the pulp to bacteria normally found in the mouth. Severe gum (periodontal) disease can cause infection of the pulp, too.
All of these conditions can cause severe toothaches, or deterioration of the pulp may happen so gradually that it is nearly painless. In any event, when these situations exist, the tooth should be treated by root canal therapy or it will be lost.
What Is Involved In Root Canal Therapy?
The first step is to remove the pulp tissue and carefully clean the pulp chamber and root canals. This is done through a small opening in the crown of the tooth. (If you are experiencing severe pain from the tooth, this will usually provide dramatic relief.) Once the area has been cleaned, medicine is then placed in the tooth and it is temporarily sealed. However, if severe infection is present, your dentist may leave the tooth open for a few days to promote drainage. He may also choose to prescribe an antibiotic to help control the infection.
The pulp chamber and root canals are thoroughly cleansed, sealed and the crown of the tooth is restored. If a cyst or large area of infection is present at the tip of the root, it may be necessary to remove it surgically. This is called periapical surgery (or an apicoectomy) and is done through the gum.
The treatment program usually takes between two and five appointments. When the dentist is certain that the tooth is free of infection, he will fill and seal the canals and pulp chamber with a material which will prevent bacteria from re-entering the tooth. Then the outer portion of the tooth must be restored. However, it may first be necessary to strengthen the tooth with a “post and core” buildup. Then the crown of the tooth will be restored with a silver or plastic filing, a gold inlay, or a porcelain or gold crown.
Will The Treatment Be Painful?
Many of the procedures can be done without local anesthesia. However, if your dentist anticipates any discomfort, a local anesthetic will be given. Sometimes there may be temporary irritation of the tissues surrounding the tooth following treatment. This is usually so slight that it can be controlled with a simple remedy such as aspirin. Should you develop any severe swelling, or increasing pain, you should contact your dentist at once.
Is It Expensive?
The cost of root canal therapy and filling is usually less than the cost of removing the tooth and replacing it with an artificial one. Also, no replacement will ever be as satisfactory as your natural tooth.
The fee is usually determined by the complexity of the condition and the number of root canals involved. Restoring the crown after treatment is not usually included in the root canal therapy fee.
Fact or Fiction?
The tooth will be dead.
FICTION! Even with a non-vital pulp, the tooth still receives nourishment and support from its surrounding tissues.
The tooth will be a source of infection.
FICTION! A carefully treated tooth is not a source of infection and will not cause heart trouble, joint diseases, or any of the many conditions formerly attributed to “dead teeth.”
The tooth will turn black.
FICTION! With modern treatment the tooth will not turn black. It may become discolored or darken slightly; however, this can usually be treated with a simple bleaching technique.
The tooth probably won’t last.
FICTION! More than 90% of the teeth given this treatment will last as long as the person’s natural teeth. Of course, you need to continue to see your dentist regularly and to take good care of your teeth and gums.
At Paradise Dental we make every effort to ensure your comfort during root canal treatment. And we’re happy to answer any root canal questions you may have. Our concern is your comfort and confidence. Our goal is to help preserve your natural teeth for a lifetime.