Root canal therapy, or endodontic treatment, is necessary when the pulp, or nerve of the tooth, becomes inflamed or infected. This can occur when there is the presence of deep decay, trauma to the tooth, cracks or chips in the tooth structure, among others. At times, this can be painful and, if left untreated, can cause swelling or an abscess. The typical symptoms include pain to cold or heat that does not go away, pain to pressure on the tooth, discolored tooth structure, swelling, drainage, or pain in the surrounding gum tissue. However, there are times that there are no symptoms at all. Often, delaying simple treatment, such as fillings and crowns, can lead to the spread of decay or facture, leading to these conditions and need for a root canal. At D’Amico and Mauck, or doctors take care to monitor for the earliest signs of these conditions so that these symptoms can be avoided if at all possible.
What is a Root Canal Treatment? – When the nerve is inflamed or infected, root canal treatment may be used in an attempt to “save” the tooth. Careful examination and diagnosis of the pulp and surrounding tissues and how much tooth structure will be left are made to insure that this is the best possible course of treatment for the tooth. At times an antibiotic or other prescription medication may be used to help the body fight an infection of dental origin. This starts the process of removing the bacteria causing the inflamed nerve. One of the most common misconceptions is that root canals are painful. With modern local anesthetic techniques, most patients report that they are very comfortable during and after the procedure. First, local anesthetic is administered to the tooth. After the tooth is numb, the cause of this irritated condition (decay, fracture, etc.) is first removed. A small protective “dental dam” is used to isolate the tooth, keeping the area clean and saliva free during the procedure. An opening is made into the crown of the tooth and small instruments are used to clean and shape the pulp chamber of the tooth. The root system is then filled with a biocompatible rubber-like material called gutta-percha. Then the missing tooth structure replaced with a filling material called a build up. Prior to the placement of a final crown, avoiding chewing on the tooth is important to prevent cracks or fracture. Often times, the tooth will need a final crown to hold the remaining tooth structure together. After completion, the tooth will continue to function as any other tooth.
If you have questions about a proposed root canal or are in pain and think you may need a root canal, don’t hesitate to call our friendly dental team today!