Root Canal Therapy (Endodontics)
Just hearing the word root canal will make many patients cringe. Society has given root canal therapy a horrible reputation when it fact is a relatively easy painless procedure performed by your dentist or endodontist (root canal specialist). The most common causes or reasons for needing a root canal are deep decay, large fillings or a serious injury to your tooth.Years ago infected, broken or abscessed teeth were routinely extracted. Today many of these teeth can be saved with root canal therapy.
Severe pain, swelling in the gum or cheek, sensitivity to hot or cold, or a darkening tooth, are signs that a root canal problem exists. Usually an X-ray will be required to confirm the cause of the dental infection and condition of the tooth. The entire procedure takes between one to two hours. Historically root canals were done over several appointments. The science and evidence now is that many teeth requiring a root canal can be done in one visit. Patients often have the option of having their root canal done with local anesthesia, “novacaine”, Nitrous Oxide, Oral or Intravenous sedation. Without sedation all you feel is the same sensation as someone squeezing your hand. With sedation the appointment will fly by and you will have very little if any recall of the treatment.
Inside your hollow tooth is pink flesh identical to the flesh just below the skin that contains nerves, arteries and veins. When you cut your finger you don’t say your nerve is exposed. If you have an infection under your skin from a splinter it hurts but your nerve is not exposed. Root canal therapy is analogous to removing the splinter from your finger or toe. The infected flesh or pulp is removed and then the tooth’s canal system filled to prevent future infection. According to recent studies published in the Journal of the American Dental Association root canal therapy is 90% successful and when properly cared for should last many years. Depending on how much of the tooth remains (after the decay or filling is removed) determines the type of final restoration. If the cause of the infection is from trauma many times the tooth only will require the root canal and then a simple filling. When most of the tooth is destroyed by decay then after the root canal is completed it will require a post to build up the tooth and then a crown on top to prevent the tooth from fracture.
If you need additional information or have any questions feel free to call the Levittown dental office at 516-796-6600. Dental emergencies and toothaches are always welcome.
What can I expect after a root canal?
After the local anesthetic wears off it’s not unusual to have some soreness in and around the tooth that was treated. This soreness usually lasts about 3 days and gradually gets better. I’ve had patients that had discomfort for up to three weeks.
Inflammation is the reason for the discomfort and is caused by your dental infection, the dental injection and the files used to open up the root canal system. I encourage patients, who can take ibuprofen, (Advil, Motrin) to take 800mg every 4-6 hours until comfortable. If the pain persists and you feel it is getting worse you should return to the office for an evaluation. All antibiotics have side effects so are no longer routinely given. If you experience swelling or escalating discomfort then antibiotics may be indicated. Obviously if you have an allergy to any prescribed medication don’t take it. If you develop allergic symptoms stop the medication and call the prescribing doctor.
Avoid Chewing on the tooth until the final filling or crown is placed. Also eat soft foods to prevent a root fracture or aggravate the already sore tooth. Depending on the reason for the root canal a follow up appointment may be necessary.
Your recovery and wellbeing is our number one concern. If you have any questions or concerns don’t hesitate to call the Levittown office (516)-796-6600.
What are the steps to a Root Canal?
There are three basic steps to performing a root canal:
- The first step is to open up the tooth so the infection can drain. Think of this step as lancing an abscess or popping a pimple. A hole is placed in the top of molars and bicuspids or behind a front tooth. This allows the infection to drain out the hole and with badly infected teeth pus will flow out the hole.
- Step two is to clean out the canal system to remove all the infected flesh, decay and food inside the tooth. Normally this is done with a series of small hand files along with rotary files. The canal or canals inside the tooth is cleaned and machined with the various file sizes to accept a sealer or plug to prevent bacteria from the mouth to travel down the root into the bone. Special irrigating solutions are placed down the tooth canal to disinfect, soften and clean out the debris created during the filing process.
- The third and final step is the drying and sealing of the canal or canal system. Small tapered paper points are inserted down the canal to dry the tooth and then the canal or canals sealed with a thermoplastic material (gutta percha) to plug/seal the tooth.
A root canal can be done in a single visit or multiple visits. It depends on how badly infected the tooth is and if the dentist can clean out and dry the canal system. All teeth treated with root canal will require a restoration. In the Levittown dental office most root canals are performed in one or two visits.
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