Root canal therapy helps save your natural teeth
Our teeth are meant to last a lifetime, however due to a combination of diet, home care, and factors outside of our control, problems do sometimes occur that require a fix. Root canal treatments are indicated when decay reaches the inner nerve of a tooth, or if you chew down into something hard like an olive pit, and crack the tooth down the middle. Root canal treatments are a common dental procedure that is done to get the patient out of pain, and more importantly save the natural tooth that would otherwise need to be extracted. Keeping the tooth allows you to continue functioninig on it without the need for more complex treatments such as dental implants. At Dental Designs of Maryland with locations in Perry Hall, MD and Hanover, MD, we use root canal therapy to eliminate pain and infection so we can avoid having to remove your natural teeth.
What Is a Root Canal?
A root canal is a treatment that is performed on very badly damaged teeth. At the center of every tooth is an area called the pulp chamber, which contains the nerves, blood supply, and connective tissue of the tooth. This pulp chamber is what keeps the tooth “alive” and allows you to feel hot and cold when you’re chewing. If decay or a fracture is left untreated and reaches this pulp chamber area, it can often cause a very painful response. The pain can be intermittent or constant, and without treatment the infection will continue to develop and reach deep into the bone surrounding the tooth itself. This will often cause swelling, visible changes in the color or condition of the gum, radiating pain into the ear, and extreme tooth pain. When we reach this point the only options are root canal or extraction.
Leaving a tooth untreated at this point not will lead to large amounts of swelling and continued extreme pain, and as the decay grows larger we may reach a point where the tooth can only be extracted. This leads to many negative side effects including shifting or migrating of healthy nearby teeth, loss of bone structure which cannot be repaired, as well as the need for future dental implants or bridges.
What causes me to need a root canal?
The most common cause of needing a root canal is delayed treatment of deep tooth decay. If left untreated, the decay becomes increasingly large and becomes large breeding areas for infection; this infection eventually travels to the pulp chamber in the middle of the tooth, infecting the pulp tissue and nerve. Another common cause for needing root canals is trauma or fracture of the tooth that causes a crack which allows bacteria to pass through to the pulp chamber. Lastly, teeth that have been worked on extensively for various treatments over the course of time, can eventually lead to damage of the pulp tissue, necessitating a root canal. Certain people also have larger pulp chambers than normal, which means it doesn’t take a lot of decay or fracture to reach the nerve of the tooth; these are people who are genetically more prone to needing root canals, and need to make sure they are on top of their regularly scheduled hygiene appointments and check-ups.
Does a Root Canal Hurt?
The unfairly maligned root canal is often a source of fear and anxiety of dental patients of all ages. You’ve likely heard the phrase “I’d rather a root canal than…” as a comedic reference that suggests the procedure is truly miserable. In reality, root canal treatments if managed properly are no worse than a tooth colored filling or dental crown. Often times antibiotics are indicated for a week prior to being treated for the root canal, in order to bring down the infection. A patient that goes into the procedure without a huge amount of pain and swelling, will often have a much easier path to recovery and minimal postoperative pain. Please note however that continued and consistent delay of treatment may encourage the infection to spread deep into the tooth where we cannot fully numb, and that is often the source of the reputation that root canals have. Frequent visits to Dental Designs of Maryland for cleanings and check-ups, and making sure not to delay your treatment, will ensure you have a smooth and pain free root canal treatment experience.
The Root Canal Procedure
What happens during a root canal? These are procedures that often can be completed in a single visit and have minimal postoperative discomfort. We begin with use of local anesthetic to completely numb the tooth. Oftentimes this is the worst part, and once numb the rest of the procedure is simple.
The dentist then cleans out the decay of the fractured area of the tooth, and creates a tiny opening on the top of the infected tooth. Specialized tools are used to clean out, irrigate, and disinfect the damaged tissues and empty the canals. Next, a bioceramic filling material is placed into the empty canals which seals the empty space and prevents any recurrent bacteria from entering and causing future infection. After the tooth is healed, the patient is brought back to buildup the tooth and place a porcelain crown to protect the tooth and prevent future breakage.
A bit of postoperative sensitivity is normal for several days after the root canal. In select cases the sensitivity may be more acute, but this can often be prevented by not delaying treatment until the area is extremely infected. Use of over the counter pain relievers and occasionally prescription non-opioid pain medication will help with the discomfort. It’s vitally important to avoid chewing hard foods on the tooth for several days following the treatment until a final buildup and crown can be placed on the tooth.
If you are in or around the White Marsh, MD, Perry Hall, MD, and Hanover, MD and are experiencing severe pain in a tooth, or feel radiating pain or swelling in an area of your mouth, please call our office immediately using the Contact Us button above. We will schedule an evaluation as soon as possible and make the proper recommendation to try to save your tooth via rot canal therapy, eliminating the pain, and preventing the need for tooth extraction. For more information about root canal therapy or to discuss your symptoms, please call Dental Designs of Maryland today using the Contact Us page above.