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Root Canal Therapy

Home  /  Root Canal Therapy

Saving your natural tooth.

Have you been told that you need a root canal?  If so, don’t worry.  We are here to help you every step of the way.

Root canal treatment is a common and straightforward procedure to relieve dental pain and save your tooth.  Millions of teeth are successfully treated every year with root canal therapy.

Typically a root canal is needed when there is inflammation or infection inside the roots of a tooth.  If deemed necessary, one of our root canal experts will:

carefully removes the pulp inside the tooth

clean and disinfect the area

shape the root canal(s)

place a temporary filling to seal the space

What is endodontic treatment?

Endodontic treatment treats the inside of the tooth.  Root canal treatment is one type of endodontic treatment.

To understand endodontic treatment, it helps to know something about the anatomy of the tooth.

Inside the tooth, under the white enamel and a hard layer called the dentin, is a soft tissue called the pulp.  The pulp contains blood vessels, nerves and connective tissue and builds the surrounding hard tissues of the tooth during development.

As you can see in this picture, the pulp extends from the crown of the tooth down to the tip of the roots.  While the pulp is very important during a tooth’s growth and development, once fully formed, a tooth can survive without it because the tooth continues to be nourished by the other surrounding tissues.

Why would I need an endodontic procedure?

Endodontic treatment is necessary when the pulp becomes inflamed or infected.  The most common cause of infection is bacteria finding its way inside the tooth through:

deep decay

repeated dental procedures on the tooth

shrinkage or breakage of an existing filling

a crack or chip in the tooth

Sometimes it can be surprising to learn that you have an infected pulp because the answer is not always so visible.  Tiny hairline cracks in our teeth (from chewing hard foods or trauma) may be invisible to the naked eye but are large enough for bacteria to pass.  Once the pulp is infected, it can not heal on its own.  If we determine your pulp is infected, we must act quickly!  Choosing to ignore the signs of infected pulp leaves results in a chronic, active bacterial infection, which can grow into an abscess and even spread to nearby teeth.

What are the signs of needing endodontic treatment?

pain

prolonged sensitivity to hot or cold

foul taste

swelling

discoloration of the tooth

pain chewing

tenderness to touch

drainage and tenderness in the lymph nodes as well as neighboring bone and gum tissues

Sometimes, however, there are no symptoms, which is just another reason that regular dental visits are so important.

How does endodontic treatment save the tooth?

When the pulp of a tooth becomes infected, there are only two options:

  1. Save the tooth by completing a root canal and then restoring it with a crown or filling
  2. Extract the tooth

The pulp will not heal on its own and ignoring it will only cause more problems.  At whole dental wellness, we believe in saving teeth so extraction is always our last option.

If endodontic treatment is chosen, we will remove the inflamed or infected pulp, carefully cleans and shapes the inside of the root canal, then fills and seals the space.  Afterward, we will place a crown or filling on the tooth to protect and seal it, restoring it to full function.

Will I feel pain during or after the procedure?

Many endodontic procedures are performed to relieve the pain of toothaches caused by pulp inflammation or infection. With modern techniques and anesthetics, most patients report that they are comfortable during the procedure.

There is a misconception that root canal therapy is painful, when in fact we are relieving the pain caused by a brewing bacterial infection. We will always ensure you are comfortably numb before starting the treatment.  We also offer conscious sedation options to further your relaxation, including nitrous oxide or laughing gas, and prescribed relaxant pills, if needed.  Remember, while the infection that brought you into our office can be extremely painful, the endodontic procedure is meant to relieve it.

For the first few days after treatment, it is normal for your tooth to feel sensitive, especially if there was pain or infection before the procedure. This discomfort can typically be relieved with over-the-counter or prescription medications.

After the root canal, will my tooth need further care to stay healthy and pain-free?

After your root canal, we recommend you treat the area with caution for a few days.  Before the crown or filling is placed  to seal and protect it, your tooth is susceptible to fracture.  To prevent this, we recommend sticking to a soft food diet to minimize chewing in the area.

After the crown or filling has been placed, your endodontically treated tooth should last as long as your other natural teeth.

Failure of the endodontic treatment is rare but does occur.  If this occurs it is likely because bacteria traveled from the main root into one of the tiny branches that stem from the root, causing problems.  Additional treatment will then be needed.

Can all teeth be treated endodontically?

Most teeth can be treated.  In rare cases, a tooth cannot be saved due to:

inadequate bone support

root fracture

root canals are not accessible

tooth cannot be restored (usually due to deep decay)

However, advances in endodontics are making it possible to save teeth that even a few years ago would have been lost. When endodontic treatment is not effective, endodontic surgery may be able to save the tooth.  At whole dental wellness we believe in saving teeth whenever possible.  Extraction is always our last resort.