Root Canal Therapy
Endodontic dentistry is a savor when it comes to preserving natural teeth. Not so long ago, teeth with infected roots were extracted, leaving the gums exposed and requiring the need for bridges or partial dentures. With several advancements in dental technology, dentists are proud to be able to restore more natural teeth than ever before, even when the insides have become infected.
When an infection is detected on the inside of a tooth, a root canal is the most effective treatment to save the tooth from extraction. Even though modern replacement teeth appear and function similar to natural teeth, dentists agree – there are no better alternatives to your original teeth. With root canal therapy, patients can be sure they are making the best decision for the overall health and functioning of their mouth in the long run.
Root Canal Therapy Overview
Root canal therapy targets the inner workings of the tooth. Teeth are composed of blood vessels, referred to as the ‘pulp’; which develops the surrounding tooth we see on the surface. When a tooth becomes decayed, the infection can spread to the pulp if not treated quickly. Once the inside of the tooth becomes diseased, the only way to save the tooth from extraction is by root canal therapy. This procedure removes the decayed pulp from the tooth and replaces the space with composite materials to protect it from future infection.
Reasons for Root Canal
Patients may require root canal therapy for a variety of different reasons, including:
- Infection to pulp
- Decayed teeth
- Injury to the tooth due to trauma or fracture
- Loss of tooth nerve
If a patient has experienced any of the following situations, they may not show immediate signs of a problem. But often, when a root canal is truly needed, patients will complain about the resulting symptoms indicating there is a severe dental issue to address:
- Toothaches ranging in pain from severe to moderate
- Tenderness, redness or swelling of the gums surrounding a tooth
- Tooth sensitivity to hold and cold temperatures foods/drinks
- Darkened or grayed teeth
- Chewing pain or pressure when biting down
Ignoring these symptoms can lead to more significant dental issues including loss of teeth, gum disease, and deterioration in the jawbone from infection.
Who Performs Root Canals
To receive root canal therapy, you can make an appointment with your general dentist. In cases where the root canal therapy is extensive, your provider may refer you to an endodontist (dental professional specializing in the internal workings of the teeth) for specialized treatment of the area.
Process of Root Canal Therapy
The length of time needed for a root canal will always vary based not the scope of your treatment. Root canal therapy can take up to three visits to complete for complex cases and one appointment for patients with mild conditions. Initially, your dentist will provide you with a sedation method to relax and numb you for the procedure. Your dentist will then secure a ‘dental dam’ to protect the area from contamination of saliva and mouth bacteria. Once placed, your dentist will make a small opening on the surface of the tooth to create a passage for the removal of infected pulp. When the pulp is removed, the space left will be filled using a biocompatible rubbery material called ‘gutta-percha’; This material protects the root from further infection by acting as barrier similar to the pulp. The filling is sealed in with cement on the surface, finishing off the root canal. In cases where the top of the tooth is severely decayed, your dentist will most likely recommend placing a porcelain crown for further protection again cracking and cavities. The crown may take some time to create in the exact shape, size, and tint needed to match your smile so that a temporary crown will be placed in the meantime. Once your porcelain crown is completed, you will return for the bonding appointment as the final step of your tooth restoration.
Post Care Instruction for Root Canal Therapy
Unlike some dental procedures, root canal therapy does not require a long recovery process. Your dental provider will ensure to monitor you for complications after your procedure in case concerning symptoms arise. Reasons for calling your provider after completing root canal therapy include:
- Experiencing severe pain in the treated area
- Feeling pressure around the root canal
- Noticing swelling or inflammation in the gums
- Reoccurring systems that led you to seek root canal therapy
Experiencing any of these conditions can indicate a problem with the root canal or further infection to surrounding teeth, so reporting any concerns to your provider is extremely important as soon as you notice them.
Cost of Root Canal Therapy
Every patient’s treatment is different; therefore the cost of each procedure will vary. The severity of your root canal therapy will often decide the final price of the procedure. Dental insurances may provide coverage depending on your plan. Contacting your insurance company before completing any root canal therapy is vital in estimating how much of the procedure you will be expected to pay out of pocket.
Prevention of Root Canal Therapy
Root canal therapy is extremely useful in saving natural teeth. But preventing the need for a root canal in the first place is the healthiest method of preserving your smile. By following these preventative measures, your risk of requiring a future root canal can significantly decrease:
- Practice food daily oral hygiene routines (brushing, flossing, rinsing)
- Schedule at least two dental check-up appointments a year
- Address all surface cavities promptly to avoid spreading to the tooth pulp
- When playing high impact sports, wear a mouth guard or masked helmet if applicable
Your smile is one of the most prized attributes you own. Neglecting to take care of your oral health has impactful long-term consequences no one wants to endure. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms which indicate you might require root canal therapy, schedule an appointment with your provider today foran evaluation of your oral health.