Lancaster Dental

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Root Canal Explained

Root canal treatment is designed to eliminate bacteria from the infected root canal, prevent reinfection of the tooth, and save the natural tooth. When one

undergoes a root canal, the inflamed or infected pulp is removed and the inside of the tooth is carefully cleaned and disinfected, then filled and sealed.

What happens during root canal treatment? Learn more about this quick, comfortable procedure that can relieve your pain and save your natural tooth.

There’s no need to be worried if your dentist or endodontist prescribes a root canal procedure to treat a damaged or diseased tooth. Millions of teeth are treated and saved this way each year, relieving pain and making teeth healthy again.

Inside your tooth, beneath the white enamel and a hard layer called dentin, is a soft tissue called the pulp. This tissue contains blood vessels, nerves, and connective tissue, which help grow your tooth’s root during its development. A fully developed tooth can survive without the pulp because the tooth continues to be nourished by the tissues surrounding it.

A modern root canal treatment is nothing like those old sayings! It’s very similar to a routine filling and can usually be completed in one or two appointments, depending on the condition of your tooth and your circumstances. Getting a root canal is relatively painless and extremely effective. You’ll be back to smiling, biting, and chewing with ease in no time.

Saving the natural tooth with root canal treatment has many advantages:

  • Efficient chewing
  • Normal biting force and sensation
  • Natural appearance
  • Protects other teeth from excessive wear or strain

Why Does Tooth Pulp Need to Be Removed?

When a tooth’s nerve tissue or pulp is damaged, it breaks down and bacteria begin to multiply within the pulp chamber. The bacteria and other decayed debris can cause an infection or abscessed tooth. An abscess is a pus-filled pocket that forms at the end of the roots of the tooth. An abscess happens when the infection spreads past the ends of the roots of the tooth. An infection in the root canal of a tooth can also cause:

  • Swelling that may spread to other areas of the face, neck, or head
  • Bone loss around the tip of the root
  • Drainage problems extending outward from the root. A hole can occur through the side of the tooth with drainage into the gums or through the cheek with drainage into the skin.

What Are the Signs That a Root Canal Is Needed?

If you need a root canal, you may notice these signs:

  • Tooth sensitivity that lingers, especially to heat or cold
  • Sharp pain when chewing or biting
  • Pimples on your gums
  • Chipped or cracked teeth
  • Swollen or painful gums
  • Deep decay or darkened gums

All About Root Canals

A root canal (also known as an endodontic treatment) is a serious procedure, but one that specialists handle every day. Before engaging in any type of dental work, it’s important to know the facts about root canals.

Does a root canal hurt?

Since patients are given anesthesia, a root canal isn’t more painful than a regular dental procedure, such as a filling or getting a wisdom tooth removed. However, a root canal is generally a bit sore or numb after the procedure, and can even cause mild discomfort for a few days.

How do you know if you need a root canal?

Root canals are needed for a cracked tooth from injury or genetics, a deep cavity, or issues from a previous filling. Patients generally need a root canal when they notice their teeth are sensitive, particularly to hot and cold sensations. 

There are a few symptoms that mean you might need a root canal—

  • Severe pain while chewing or biting
  • Pimples on the gums
  • A chipped or cracked tooth
  • Lingering sensitivity to hot or cold, even after the sensation has been removed
  • Swollen or tender gums
  • Deep decay or darkening of the gums

Can I go to school or work after getting a root canal?

Although you will most likely be numb for 2-4 hours following the procedure, most patients can return to school or work directly following a root canal. However, it is advised against eating until the numbness is completely gone. 

How much does a root canal cost? 

The cost varies depending on how complex the problem is and which tooth is affected. Molars are more difficult to treat; the fee is usually more. Most dental insurance policies provide some coverage for endodontic treatment.

Generally, endodontic treatment and restoration of the natural tooth are less expensive than the alternative of having the tooth extracted. An extracted tooth must be replaced with an implant or bridge to restore chewing function and prevent adjacent teeth from shifting. These procedures tend to cost more than endodontic treatment and appropriate restoration.

How does endodontic treatment save the tooth?

It’s necessary to have endodontic or root canal treatment when the inside of your tooth (the pulp) becomes inflamed or infected as a result of deep decay, repeated dental procedures, faulty crowns, or a crack or chip in the tooth. Trauma to your tooth may also cause pulp damage even if the tooth has no visible chips or cracks. If pulp inflammation or infection is left untreated, it can cause pain or lead to an abscess.

When you undergo a root canal or other endodontic treatment, the inflamed or infected pulp is removed and the inside of the tooth is carefully cleaned and disinfected, then filled and sealed with a rubber-like material called gutta-percha. Afterward, the tooth is restored with a crown or filling for protection and will continue to function like any other tooth.

Endodontic treatment helps you maintain your natural smile, continue eating the food you love and limit the need for ongoing dental work. With proper care, most teeth that have had root canal treatment can last a lifetime.

Resources:

webmd.com

aae.org

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