The dentist told you that you need a root canal. You did not really know what that meant but you made the appointment and now you want to know more. This very common procedure is performed by dentists with specialized training – called endodontists – or a general dentist who can also do root canal treatment and it is performed to help preserve your smile.
Root canals are common procedures that are used to save a tooth that has large amounts of decay in it, or one that has become infected. Without the root canal, the tooth would likely need to be extracted. The method used in root canal therapy enables the dentist to save the tooth without requiring the need for a false tooth, such as a bridge.
Root Canal Overview
When your tooth hurts and you want relief because of the sharp pain the best thing to do is to call the dentist right away. At Global Family Dental the staff will take dental x-rays, to determine the condition of the infection that is causing tooth pain. Dental x-rays will reveal the interior condition of the tooth and will show where the infection has extended into the interior of your tooth.
In order to correct this problem and save the tooth, the dentist needs to remove the infection in the tooth. The dentist will drill a small hall on top of the tooth, once the tooth is opened the primary dentist can view the infected tissue (the pulp) and nerve in the tooth will be removed.
What Happens During A Root Canal?
When a root canal is determined to be necessary, the procedure is rather straight forward. The steps involved are nearly always the same.
The first step of the root canal process is to provide the patient with a small injection to numb the area around the tooth. Once numbed, the dentist will drill a small hole in the crown of the tooth. The hole will be made deep enough to reach the pulp and nerves in the tooth.
Once the hole has been made, the dentist will insert a series of tiny files into the tooth of the hole. The dentist will start with a tiny file and then slightly larger ones will be used each time. They will remove the pulp, nerve, and inflammation within the root (or roots) of the tooth.
After the tissue in the roots of the tooth is removed, the dentist will apply an antimicrobial solution. This will further help to destroy any remaining bacteria in the tooth and it helps to ensure that reinfection will not spread or form any longer.
The next step is to fill the tooth holes or legs of the tooth created when the tissue in the tooth was removed. The dentist will use a material called gutta percha – a rubber-like material. It is inserted into the holes or legs of the tooth, the gutta percha seals the tooth by further preventing reinfection.
After the tooth is ready to be closed, the dentist will fill the tooth using temporary filling material. Temporary filling on top of the tooth is needed so that the tooth can absorb the gutta percha correctly. After a week or so, the dentist will remove the temporary filling completely and prepare the tooth for a permanent crown. The dentist will make a couple of bite impressions that are sent to the dental lab to make the final crown that goes on top of the root canal tooth. In the meantime, the dentist will also make a temporary crown in the office. Once the new and final crown comes back from the dental lab, the dentist will remove the old temporary crown from the tooth. The new and final crown will be checked to ensure a correct fit on the tooth and then permanently placed on top of the root canal tooth.
When a Root Canal Becomes Necessary
Just because you have pain in a tooth, it does not mean that you are going to need a root canal. In many cases, you may only need a filling in the tooth which will preserve it for many years.
Certain types of problems, however, are going to allow bacteria to get into the tooth. This can occur when a tooth is cracked or when a cavity becomes deep. Both situations will allow bacteria into the inner parts of the tooth, which often leads to inflammation and further decay of the tooth.
Ongoing inflammation is a serious problem by itself. When not treated, it will destroy the tissue in the tooth. As it spreads into the gums, it can cause loss of bone in the jaw, which will cause the tooth to become loose, and extraction becomes necessary. Removing the tooth can often be prevented by getting a root canal, which will remove the inflammation and the pain.
It is also possible that inflammation can enter the tooth from its roots if the gums become inflamed. This situation is called an abscessed tooth and will become quite painful unless there is some way that the pus is drained. If left untreated, this condition can become quite serious because the infection will continue to spread. If it reaches the brain, it could even become fatal.
An abscessed tooth is identified by its symptoms. In addition to strong pain in the area of the infection, there will also be redness in your gums at the base of the infected tooth. Other symptoms may also be present, which may include:
- Pain when biting in that area
- Swelling in your cheek or face
- Severe pain that is persistent
- Swollen lymph nodes in your neck that are tender
- A sudden rush of a nasty tasting liquid in your mouth
- Difficulty when swallowing or breathing.
When Emergency Help Is Necessary
When you see any of the above symptoms, you need to get to a dentist right away. Because of the potential seriousness of the situation, you should not wait to seek treatment. Contact the dentist quickly. If you are having trouble breathing or swallowing and cannot reach your dentist, go to an emergency room right away. These symptoms reveal that the infection has already spread in your jaw and possibly beyond.
After draining the pus in the infected area, the dentist will usually conduct a root canal to save the tooth. This will eliminate the inflammation and the treatment will help to prevent reinfection.
Researchers have also discovered that inflammation is behind the formation of many diseases. Often stemming from gum disease, it has been found to be behind more than 100 common diseases, including heart disease, diabetes, cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, asthma, gout, digestive disorders, and many more. This finding makes it very important to eliminate inflammation as soon as you become aware of it.
Root Canal vs Tooth Extraction
There is a big difference between a root canal and a tooth extraction. Tooth decay can affect any tooth. Eventually, it can become so bad that a repair is needed. If a nerve is exposed due to decay, you will have pain with it. A repair – often a root canal – is given to preserve the tooth.
Tooth extraction is only used as a last resort. A tooth will only be extracted after it has been deemed beyond repair and cannot be saved. In some cases, if a root canal is not performed in time, the tooth may still be lost.
It needs to be remembered that there is no substitute for a natural tooth. Artificial teeth such as a dental implant, even though they can look much like your natural teeth, you are better off when your real teeth can be preserved. In the long run having a dental implant placement will cost you a lot more than saving your teeth with a proper root canal treatment.
Is a Root Canal Painful?
Some people have heard from others that a root canal is painful. They take this fear into the dentist’s office believing a false rumor. The truth is that after being properly numbed, the procedure is painless.
Although it may surprise you, the tooth itself is incapable of producing any pain once the procedure is completed. This is because the nerve and tissue in the tooth were completely removed. If there is any pain, it is felt in the nerves in the jaw, which may occur with an infection.
Although the possibility of reinfection cannot be completely eliminated, when the dentist is careful, it is highly unlikely. You should know, though, that there are many tiny canals on the inside of your teeth. Even the best disinfectant will not get in all of them, which allows a slight possibility of reinfection.
Another situation that may produce the need for a second procedure is that the tooth may not heal completely afterward. While most root canal procedures do not need to be repeated, there are a few that do – even when the greatest care is given.
What Kind of Anesthesia Will Be Used?
When you are diagnosed with the need to have a root canal, you will be able to tell the dentist what kind of anesthesia you prefer. While most people only need local injections, you may desire to have something different.
The dentist will tell you what options are available in the way of anesthesia. You will need to ask about the options. In place of injections, you may also choose:
- Nitrous oxide – also known as laughing gas. It may also be used with an oral sedative.
- Oral sedatives – these will be taken about an hour before the root canal. Valium is often given.
- Sleep dentistry – this form of treatment enables the patient to still respond to the dentist. It is not general anesthesia. An advantage of this form of anesthesia is that the patient will remember almost nothing of the procedure.
You need to be aware that if you chose another form of anesthesia, that injections are still necessary. This is because the medications used for anesthesia are not a pain killer, it simply helps you to relax. The injections are not given until you are already relaxed from the medication – and you will not care about them at that time.
How Long Does A Root Canal Take?
There is not a specific amount of time that is needed to have a root canal. It will depend on various factors, including whether or not the tooth has one or more roots. A larger tooth, such as a molar, will take longer because it will have more roots.
Most root canal procedures do not take very long. The general dentist can usually complete a root canal treatment in 30 to 60 minutes, but a more complex one may take 90 minutes.
If you know which tooth needs to have a root canal, you can know what to expect as to how long it might take. Smaller teeth have two nerves in them. They include teeth numbers 4, 5, 6, 11, 12, 13, 20, 21, 22, 27, 28, and 29. Your front teeth all have one nerve – each of them can be completed in just one visit. Your larger teeth have 3 canals in them and 3 nerves. It includes teeth numbers 2, 3, 30, 31, 14, 15, 18, and 19. When performing a root canal on any of your teeth at Global Family Dental, the procedure is completed in just one visit.
What Are The Next Steps After The Root Canal Is Completed?
After you have received a root canal, you can expect to have a little bit of discomfort. It does not come from the tooth but from the nerves in your gums. You may also have a little discomfort in your jaw from having to keep your mouth open during the procedure.
After the dentist is finished with the root canal treatment, the dentist will advise you not to eat for an hour.
Root Canal Treatment Cost
Because a root canal enables a tooth to be saved, you need to know that it will cost considerably less than replacing a tooth with a dental implant. If a tooth needs to be replaced using a bridge, an implant, or a partial denture, it will cost you considerably more than a root canal.
How to Help Preserve Your Teeth
You can reduce the likelihood of having to get a root canal. Although you cannot prevent decay completely, following a regimen of caring for your teeth daily will enable you to rarely need one.
The care you need to preserve your teeth longer involves four things. They include:
- Brushing and flossing your teeth every day. Brushing your teeth should last for about two minutes each time – once in the morning and once before you go to bed. Floss once a day.
- Getting regular dental checkups. This enables the dentist to spot problems while they are still small – when they will cost a lot less to repair.
- Eating healthy foods. Eliminate much of the junk food. The nutrients in healthy foods will help to replenish nutrients lost from the acid and bacteria normally found in your mouth.
- Reducing sugary and acidic foods. Acidic foods and drinks (soda, coffee, tea, wine) eat away at the enamel on your teeth and sugary foods encourage the growth of harmful bacteria in your mouth – which produce acid as they multiply.
If you live in or near Farmingdale, NY, you can get a root canal in one visit at Global Family Dental. We have a licensed and certified dentist that have a lot experience in preserving and treating teeth with root canals. We provide all the dental care that a family needs for beautiful teeth. Contact our office today to learn more about getting a root canal procedure.