When it comes to your oral health, the primary goal is of course to protect it fully so that one never encounters any issues or problems that affect the structure, function, comfort or health of their teeth, gums or mouth. It is an unfortunate fact that even those individuals who are diligent about safeguarding their oral health through strict, nutritious diets and thorough oral hygiene habits can yet experience tooth decay. When discovered and addressed rapidly, tooth decay issues can often be resolved with simple dental restorative treatments, such as fillings, inlays or onlays. However, when tooth decay issues are not discovered and resolved early on they have the potential to cause significant problems that must be handled with more aggressive dental restorative treatments, such as a root canal procedure.
What a Root Canal is
A root canal is a dental restorative procedure used to treat significant tooth decay that has moved beyond the enamel and dentin to the pulp of the tooth, where the nerve structure is. This decay actually kills the nerve structure of the tooth and causes an infection deep in the root of the tooth, a condition that is normally marked by swelling and discomfort. It is very unfortunate that for some individuals, this swelling and discomfort is the first indication they have that anything is amiss with the tooth–at which time the tooth has suffered from irreversible damage. The only way to save the outer structure of a tooth that has been so deeply decayed, if it can be saved, is through a root canal.
Following are the main steps of the root canal procedure:
- Dental examination and consultation. When you inform your dentist about your tooth discomfort, she will first examine your mouth in order to determine the problem. This normally includes x-rays so as to better assess the extent of the situation. She will then consult with you about what is occurring and why the root canal treatment is the best option for you. This is the time when all questions should be asked and all concerns should be addressed.
- Local anesthesia administration. The area around the affected tooth will be anesthetized in order to ensure that the root canal procedure is painless and as comfortable as possible. Your dentist will ensure that you feel no pain prior to proceeding with the procedure, so it is very important to be open and honest with her.
- All decay and dead pulp is removed. Your dentist will thoroughly clean the tooth of all decayed, inflamed, infected and dead pulp tissue. This is usually the most time-consuming part of the procedure because it is vital that no infection is left behind to create future problems.
- The tooth is filled. The newly cleaned tooth cavity is filled with a rubbery substance that protects the root structure so as to prevent against any reinfection.
- A crown, or cap, is placed over the restored tooth. A tooth that requires a root canal has been so thoroughly damaged that its basic structure is permanently weakened and must be reinforced through the placement of a crown. Along with the filling, the crown works to protect and strengthen the tooth so that it is restored to normal structure and function.
After your root canal treatment, your dentist will ensure that you understand what to expect and how best to care for your newly restored tooth. Maintaining optimal oral hygiene habits with twice daily brushing, once daily flossing and twice annual dental examinations and cleanings, are essential after a root canal treatment. She will also schedule a follow-up visit in order to re-inspect the tooth and ensure that the root canal has been successful.
While there is certainly no arguing that root canals are extensive and undesirable dental treatments, they can be a far more comfortable and inexpensive treatment alternative to tooth extraction and replacement. For more information about root canals or other dental treatments, contact Dr. Best today.