Nobody likes the thought of losing a tooth, but the pain of an infected, damaged, or decaying tooth may make you wish it was gone. Before you decide to ditch the tooth and make plans for replacing it though, you should check in with your dentist about what is really going on. If treated early enough, there is a good chance that your tooth can be saved with a root canal. Root canals are used to repair and save your tooth instead of removing it.
What is a Root Canal, anyway?
Inside each tooth there is soft tissue called pulp, made up of nerves and blood vessels, that provide nourishment for the tooth. The pulp can get infected from a bad cavity, an injury, or repeated dental procedures. If so, you’ll most likely know, since there will be pain and swelling, and possibly even an abscess that forms outside the tooth or root. You may also notice that it’s become extra-sensitive to temperature or pressure. However, some infected teeth are totally without sensitivity or pain, and are caught only on X-rays. We call these time bombs. They just haven’t started hurting yet.
Luckily, a non-surgical root canal can be scheduled to remove the diseased pulp. We perform non-surgical root canals frequently in our office.
What can I expect?
The process itself normally takes only one, possibly two visits, and a local anesthesia is used, so there is little to no pain. Nitrous oxide or “laughing gas” is very effective at lowering anxiety if you’re nervous about the procedure. We also have a tv monitor suspended from the ceiling, so you can watch cable tv or your favorite dvd while we work.
- Before treatment, we will take a cone beam CT to accurately envision the internal anatomy of the tooth before we start. The cone beam is a major advancement in dental technology which allows us to see the tooth and surrounding anatomy in 3D. Traditional 2D X-rays often miss vital information that can affect treatment. After we numb the tooth and area around it, we place a thin piece of rubber over the tooth to protect it during the procedure.
- During treatment, we will create an opening in the top of the tooth or crown , remove the pulp, clean thoroughly inside the tooth, and use a germ-killing medication. We will then insert a sealant material, and place a temporary filling on the tooth.
- After treatment, the tooth may be a little sore for a few days, but you should be able to drive home with no problem. Modern guidelines for completing a root canal in one visit preclude much of the antibiotics prescribed for root canals in years past. We have become very judicious in prescribing antibiotics due to the concerns about drug resistant strains, allergies, and the serious “C-dif” intestinal infection. At a follow-up visit, we will remove the temporary filling and replace it with a permanent filling or crown, to protect the tooth from further damage.
How long will the Root Canal last?
With proper care, your restored tooth can last a lifetime. Make sure and brush twice a day, floss daily, and see your dentist regularly to prevent further problems. To schedule a consultation about a tooth you think may be injured or infected, call our office today at 479-751-9899.