Root canal therapy is primarily used on a tooth that is badly infected or decayed. The nerve of the tooth can become infected or there is damage to the pulp of the tooth. We’ll be referring to some areas of the tooth shown on the illustration. Root canals are part of our comprehensive adult dentistry services.
Root canal procedures have a bad reputation for intense pain. However, after a procedure most patients compare the sensation to getting a standard filling. The pain associated with a root canal is actually the agony one can experience from the infected tooth before they call us, not the procedure itself.
What is a root canal?
While it is not always possible to save a very damaged tooth, a root canal frequently offers the best chances for success when an injury or infection has reached the tooth’s roots. Although root canals are among the most feared dental procedures, they are very straightforward and typically cause little or no pain.
The tooth is thoroughly numbed, and then a small opening is made through the crown and into the root chamber. The tooth’s canals are cleaned of infection and damaged tissue, then filled and sealed. If needed, posts can be placed in one or more canals to support the tooth. A temporary filling is placed until a final restoration is completed.
Modern dental techniques do an excellent job of minimizing both pain and healing time. You will likely be back to work as usual within a day or two after your root canal.
What are signs you may need Root Canal Therapy?
- 1. Severe pain in one tooth
- 2. Residual pain or sensitivity in a tooth when exposed to heat or cold
- 3. Gums are swollen or tender
- 4. A recurring bump or pimple on the gums
- 5. Tooth is discolored
Why would I need a root canal?
A root canal is the only way to save a tooth whose pulp tissue has become infected. This can happen due to trauma, severe tooth decay, or even repeated dental procedures on the same tooth. Teeth that need root canals occasionally show no signs, but most often you will experience pain, swelling, and/or sensitivity in the tooth. The gums around the tooth may also appear red and inflamed.
Note that if you do not have the root canal performed, the tooth will continue to worsen. You might develop a painful abscess or even a systemic infection. Eventually, the tooth will fall out on its own or will need to be extracted.
What is involved in the root canal procedure?
The root canal procedure may require more than one visit. Dr. Schnabel is trained in the symptoms, causes, diagnosis and treatment of infections, diseases and injuries of the nerve of the tooth and dental pulp.
X-rays will be taken to indicate the shape of the root canals and where infection may be present. Often surrounding bone can be affected too.
After using a local anesthesia, an access hole will be drilled in the tooth. Pulp, decayed nerve tissue, bacteria and any other debris will be removed. Various specialized tools will be used to clean and scrape the affected area.
Please let us know if you experience any dental anxiety and we will be happy to discuss the variety of options related to sedation dentistry.
Once the tooth is cleaned, the tooth needs to be resealed. Medication may be used to treat infection before sealing the tooth.
If the tooth has decayed, a variety of restoration approaches may be used. Depending on the severity of the damage, Dr. Schnabel will discuss the dental care approach. The goal is to rid the tooth of infection, stop the decay, prevent further damage to the tooth, and restore the tooth to full function.
Is there an alternative to having a root canal?
The only alternative to having a root canal procedure is extraction of the tooth. The missing tooth would be replaced with a bridge or dental implant. These procedures are more complicated, more expensive, and require more time to complete the plan of care.
What happens after root canal therapy?
The pain you were feeling will go away. Depending on the procedure and any reconstructive care that was performed, you may want to avoid chewing in the area of the affected tooth. We will provide specific instructions for you after the root canal.
You may feel some sensitivity for a few days, especially if there was a previous infection in your tooth and gums. Over-the-counter pain medications can be used.
Root canal therapy is a highly successful approach and teeth can last a lifetime after the procedure.
How much does a root canal cost?
Root canal procedures can vary depending on your particular situation. Root canal treatment and insurance coverage are evaluated on a case-by-case basis. Dr. Schnabel can discuss your current insurance and guide you through your options.