About Root Canals
Inside the tooth, under the white enamel and a hard layer called the dentin, there is a chamber filled with soft tissue containing blood vessels, nerves, and connective tissue called the pulp. During growth and development the pulp helps to grow the roots of teeth. A mature pulp plays a role in oral perception when chewing food.
Reasons for Root Canal Treatment
The flowing symptoms are indications that root canal therapy may be needed:
- Pain upon chewing or application of pressure
- Prolonged sensitivity or pain in response to hot and/or cold temperatures
- A dark discoloration of the tooth
- Swelling and tenderness in the nearby gums
- A draining fistula (a pimple-like swelling or pus pocket) in the nearby gums
If you experience any of these symptoms, contact our office immediately. Dental abscesses are always serious because the infection may spread to other parts of the body.
Tooth Inflammation is a Likely Symptom
Tooth inflammation or infection can have a variety of causes: deep decay, repeated dental procedures on the tooth, leaking and old broken down fillings or crowns, or a crack or chip in the tooth. In addition, trauma to a tooth may cause pulp damage even if the tooth has no visible chips or cracks.
Some times an inflamed or infected pulp can be asymptomatic. Dr. Best can discover these conditions during routine x-ray and oral exams. However, in most instances, inflamed or infected pulpal tissue is associated with pain, pressure, and abscesses.
What is the Procedure?
During root canal or endodontic treatment the damaged area of the tooth is removed. Then the infected pulp chamber is opened allowing any bacterial byproduct such as gas and pus to escape and drain. The pulp chamber and roots are carefully cleaned and disinfected. The chamber and roots are filled and sealed with a rubber-like material called gutta-percha, which is inert and will not rust, corrode, or interact with body fluids.
Depending upon the situation, Dr. Best may prescribe an antibiotic to expedite the healing and fistula resolution, and prevent the infection from spreading. It is not uncommon to experience mild discomfort following root canal therapy. An over-the-counter painkiller will usually suffice. However, Dr. Best will prescribe a stronger medication if necessary.
Root canal treatment usually takes one or two visits to complete, after which the tooth needs to be restored with a crown (see Dental Crowns). When the blood vessels in the pulp are removed, the tooth no longer receives moisture and nourishment. Therefore, a tooth is more susceptible to dry up, become brittle, and fracture. A crown helps to prevent fracturing and restores the tooth to look and function like any other healthy tooth.
How Successful are Root Canal Treatments?
Root canal therapy is a highly predictable procedure, and 95% of all root canals are successful. It is an excellent way to save a tooth that would otherwise need to be extracted. Because tooth decay can still occur in treated teeth, good oral hygiene and regular dental exams are necessary to prevent further problems.