Root Canal Treatment

Why do I need a root canal?
Our patients are referred to this office by their dentists to help save diseased or injured teeth. The goal of our practice is to provide dramatic relief from dental pain and to help each patient keep teeth which would otherwise need to be extracted.

Each tooth has a complex anatomy inside consisting of a collection of blood vessels, nerve fibers, and other tissues (or “pulp”). This tissue extends from the crown of the tooth to the tips of the roots and is involved in the development, or growth, of the tooth. When the crown and roots of the tooth have fully grown, the tooth can survive without the pulp if it must be removed because of infection or inflammation.

A root canal becomes necessary when the tissue inside the tooth becomes damaged or infected. Common causes for these problems include deep cavities, repeated dental procedures, cracks, or trauma to the tooth. Pain, lingering heat or cold sensitivity, chewing tenderness, swelling, and discoloration are all signs that a tooth may need root canal treatment. However, sometimes the injured or infected pulp remains “silent,” without any problems experienced by the patient, and is first noticed by the general dentist during a routine dental examination.

After successful root canal treatment, the patient can chew, talk, and smile normally without loss of the tooth.

How is a root canal performed?
After an evaluation and x-rays of the tooth have been made, local anesthetic will be delivered to the tooth to be treated by your endodontist. The patient’s comfort is our first priority. We utilize a variety of anesthetic techniques to make sure the anesthetic is successful.

During a root canal, the diseased pulp is removed and the canal space is cleaned and shaped with small instruments. After the inside of the tooth is disinfected, the canal space is filled and sealed. Often, you will be referred back to your general dentist for placement of a crown or other permanent restoration to protect your tooth and return it to normal function.

What do I need to do after treatment?
After your treatment is completed, we will send a report to your general dentist. You will need to contact his or her office as soon as possible to schedule the placement of the crown or filling that will protect the root canal and your tooth. Delaying follow-up with your dentist can have a negative impact on the long-term outcome of endodontic treatment.

You should avoid chewing or biting with the treated tooth until your general dentist has placed the final restoration on your tooth, but good oral hygiene is still important. Continue to brush and floss normally.

Your tooth may be sore for up to a week following treatment. Over-the-counter pain relievers control most patients’ discomfort. You will be given instructions about maintaining your comfort following your appointment.

What if my tooth cannot be fixed?
Most teeth can be saved. However, sometimes teeth with large fractures, extensive decay, or inadequate bone support cannot be restored. If such a situation is suspected, your endodontist will inform you of the options available to you to be sure you are well taken care of.

What is the advantage of having an endodontist treat me?
The root canal system is different for every tooth in every patient. Sometimes canals are curved or calcified (blocked or closed). Endodontists have special training to perform root canals in all situations. We also use instruments, equipment, and techniques that are specially designed to provide a predictable and successful outcome.

We begin with digital (computerized) x-rays which give an enhanced view of the tooth and supporting bone to provide more accurate diagnosis and treatment. Radiation exposure levels with the non-film digital system are significantly less than with film-based systems.

The specialized instruments we use to clean the tooth work dependably and efficiently and allow us to treat the hard-to-find and the complex canals that present a greater challenge than routine teeth.

During treatment, we use a surgical operating microscope to provide better visualization of intricate details within the canal space. The microscopic view helps us to provide a very thorough cleansing of the tooth.

Biocompatible repair materials allow us to restore the roots of teeth that have had extensive damage or require surgical treatment.

What about sterilization?
We use autoclave sterilization for our instruments and barrier techniques in conjunction with OSHA, CDC, and American Dental Association standards to ensure infection control.

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