What is a root canal?
Root canal therapy is a very common dental procedure. According to recent statistics in the United States alone almost 41,000 root canals are performed every day and close to 15 million are done over the course of a year. Because it has high success rate, a root canal procedure is considered one of the most effective methods of saving and retaining a tooth that has been severely compromised by dental decay or injury.
Your teeth are much more than just the hard outer biting surfaces and the roots. Inside of each one is a central chamber that contains connective tissue, a nerve supply, and blood vessels. Collectively these core tissues, known as the dental pulp, help your tooth to grow and mature before it emerges into the mouth. Once your tooth is in place, the dental pulp provides nourishment, keeps the tooth vital, and alerts you of problems. Having sensitivity to various stimuli like biting down and eating or drinking hot or cold items is a warning from the nerves inside your tooth that dental decay is present, dental trauma has occurred, or an infection is brewing. The degree of pain that you experience depends on the extent of the damage and nerve involvement.
If your dentist informs you that a tooth needs a root canal, it is because the dental pulp has become irreversibly damaged or has died. However, if enough intact tooth structure remains and there is healthy bone support around the compromised tooth, you do not need to have the tooth extracted. A fully developed tooth does not require the dental pulp to remain functional. You can preserve your natural tooth by having your dentist perform a root canal on the tooth.
It is important that when a root canal is recommended, you begin care promptly. Delaying the procedure increases the risk of more widespread symptoms developing. Left untreated a dental infection can develop or worsen and have serious consequences to your overall health
How is a root canal performed?
With the modern dental instruments and advanced techniques available today having a non-surgical root canal procedure is often as comfortable as getting a routine dental filling. While some root canals can be completed in one visit, others may involve 2 or 3 appointments. How long it takes depends on factors such as the number of canals in a tooth, their anatomy and whether an active infection is present. If it is determined that the tooth is not a candidate for a root canal procedure, or if complications develop during or after care that have an impact on the prognosis of your tooth, the dentist will inform you.
During a non-surgical root canal procedure your dentist will remove the diseased dental pulp, clean the internal portion of your tooth, and then fill all the prepared canals with a biocompatible filling material. Non-surgical root canal therapy is typically performed under local anesthesia, but additional options like nitrous oxide, IV and oral sedation are available to reduce any anxiety that may be associated with dental procedures.
What happens after treatment?
Once your root canal therapy is completed and the tooth is symptom free, you are to return to your restorative dentist. Our office will send your dentist a record of your endodontic care. Your restorative dentist may then recommend placing a permanent restoration like a crown on the tooth. This will protect the tooth and give it back its appropriate natural form and function.
How much will it cost?
While the cost varies depending on which tooth is involved and the complexity of the case, saving a tooth by means of a root canal procedure is a wise investment. With proper maintenance and care teeth that have been treated with root canals can last a lifetime.
A root canal procedure is considered one of the most effective methods of preserving a tooth that has been severely compromised by dental decay or injury. According to statistics more than 95% of root canals are successful. In fact, with good oral hygiene and regular dental care, a tooth that has undergone root canal therapy can last as long as other natural teeth. However, as with any health related procedure there will be a small percentage of cases that are not successful. Occasionally, a tooth that has received a root canal may either fail to heal, or pain from that tooth may continue to exist. There are even situations where pain and symptoms develop months or years after the root canal treatment. In these cases, Endodontic Retreatment may be needed.
There are several reasons that a tooth may not heal as anticipated after the initial root canal therapy:
- Curved or narrow canals posing treatment complications
- Undetected canals due to complicated or unusual root anatomy
- Placement of a permanent restoration was delayed, allowing contamination and reinfection of the root canal
- The permanent restoration did not prevent saliva from contaminating the inside of the tooth
Even teeth that were successfully treated with a root canal procedure can be compromised by new problems that develop including:
- New decay that exposes the root canal to bacteria and causes a new infection in the tooth
- A loose, cracked, or broken dental restoration that exposes the tooth to a new infection
- A fracture of the crown or root of the tooth
If it is decided that endodontic retreatment is the most suitable option for you, the involved tooth will be reopened through a small hole in the biting or chewing surface. Restorations that had been placed on the tooth previously may be disassembled to allow access to the canals. Once the canals have been accessed, the previous root canal filling materials will be removed and the inside of the canals cleaned and carefully examined. The canals are inspected for previously undetected or unusual canals. When all of the canals have been cleaned and prepared, they are then are sealed and a temporary filling is placed. After the completion of an endodontic retreatment procedure, you are to once again return to your restorative dentist for the fabrication and placement of a more permanent restoration.