At Bertagnolli Dental in Westminster, we can tell you everything you need to know about root canals. If the dentist has recommended getting a root canal, you may be nervous and unsure of what to expect. We have been providing first-rate dental care and performing root canals on our patients since 1973. Keep reading to discover exactly what is involved in a root canal procedure, why they are needed, and how you can prevent further damage to your teeth.
A root canal is a dental procedure that saves and repairs a tooth that has become damaged by decay or infection. It is possible to restore a damaged tooth by removing the pulp and nerve tissue from the center of the tooth, hollowing out the 'root canal,' then filling it in and sealing it back up. Hence, you can keep your natural tooth and continue to use it without suffering from further pain or decay.
Why is a Root Canal Performed?
Root canals are usually performed when there is severe tooth decay that has penetrated deep down through the layers of enamel and dentin. Each tooth has a hollow space inside it called the pulp chamber and root canal. The nerves of your teeth run through the root canal into the pulp chamber, which also contains blood vessels and living connective tissue. If decay damages your tooth, deep fillings, repeated dental procedures or a crack in the enamel, the dental pulp can become exposed.
Due to a high concentration of nerve endings in the dental pulp, this can lead to sensitivity and pain when exposed to hot or cold temperatures and when eating. Exposed dental pulp can easily get infected by bacteria, causing further pain. If not treated quickly, the infection can spread deep into the roots of the tooth and form an abscess. An abscess can lead to swelling, pain, bone loss and a further spread of infection to the soft tissue of your face and jaw bone.
What Exactly is Involved in the Procedure?
A root canal can be carried out in one visit to your dentist, but in some cases, it may require two. Typically, an X-ray of the problem tooth will be taken before the procedure starts. Your dentist will use the X-ray to see the shape of the tooth's root canals and to check for signs of infection deeper in the surrounding bone. Next, they may administer a local anesthetic to the area around the tooth. With extensive decay, often the nerves are already dead and won't transmit any pain, but to be on the safe side and to put the patient at ease, the area is often numbed.
A hole will be drilled through the top of the affected tooth, giving access to the pulp chamber and root canal. The dentist will use small tools to remove the remaining pulp, decaying nerve tissue and infected debris from inside your tooth. To completely clean out all the bacteria and dead tissue, the dentist will use root canal files. A file with a small diameter is placed into the hollowed-out part of the tooth and worked all the way down through the root canal to scrape the walls of the canal.
Sodium hypochlorite or water can be used to flush out the loosened particles. The dentist will continue using files with increasing diameters to scrub and smooth down the inside of the root canal. Once it has been completely cleaned, the root canal can be filled and sealed. Your adult teeth, once they are fully mature, do not need the dental pulp and nerves to be fully functional. Removing them will not cause adverse effects in your ability to chew food.
To seal the tooth, the dentist will fill the hollowed-out part with a rubber compound and sealer paste. This will reinforce the strength and resistance of your tooth. The surface will be covered with a normal filling to seal everything together. Depending on the extent of the decay and structural degradation of your tooth, a crown may be placed over the treated tooth to give added protection.
After the Procedure
Although root canals have a bad reputation for causing pain, the procedure itself should only produce the same amount of discomfort as a standard filling. For the few days after the root canal, however, you may notice some inflammation in the area around your tooth and feel sensitivity. This is normal and should clear up within a few days. You can use over-the-counter pain relief medication to control temporary discomfort. Continue to brush and floss around the treated tooth as usual.
Why Choose a Root Canal?
Root canals have a 95% success rate and once completed, the repaired tooth can last a lifetime without giving more trouble. When considering options for a damaged tooth, it is always advisable to retain your natural tooth if possible. Your natural teeth are fused to your jaw bone, and their presence helps to reduce the risk of osteoporosis in the jaw.
With a root canal, you can also quickly improve the appearance of a tooth with a dental crown on top of the restoration. After a root canal, you can continue to eat a full range of foods, as your tooth should retain its strength. A root canal is also less invasive than having a damaged tooth pulled and then getting an implant, bridge or dentures to replace it. These replacement options are usually more expensive and in the case of dentures, which are certainly higher maintenance.
Root Canal Prevention
There are some measures to prevent ever needing a root canal. Practicing good oral hygiene by brushing and flossing each day, as well as regularly visiting your dentist for a dental check-up should reduce your risk of extensive tooth decay. You can also lower the risk of structural damage to your teeth by wearing a mouth guard while playing sports.
This may be everything you need to know about root canals, but if you are still unsure about any aspect of the procedure, please do not hesitate to contact Bertagnolli Dental. We provide personalized and comfortable dental care to clients in Westminster, Colorado. We are happy to answer any questions you may have about root canals or other dental procedures.