Toothaches can mean several different things, but they are most commonly symptoms of a tooth infection. Tooth infections are treated with root canals which are not nearly as painful or scary a the name suggests. These days, root canal therapy is more similar to getting a cavity filled. Once you are numb, you actually don't feel any pain during the entire procedure. After receiving root canal treatment, you will actually experience a drop in your pain since the infection will be treated.
About 15% of Americans avoid going to the dentist due to fear or misconceptions.
During your appointment, your dentist will perform an exam and review your x-rays in order to properly diagnose your issue. If it is a tooth infection, the next step is to determine the extent of the infection, and decide whether or not root canal therapy will be effective for treating the problem.
To start the procedure, your dentist will numb the site, using a combination of a numbing gel on the gums and techniques to minimize injection discomfort. We also offer nitrous oxide (laughing gas) in every treatment room and you may also opt to receive sedation to ensure you feel comfortable throughout the process.
Once you are comfortably numb, your dentist will begin by removing the entire cavity. From there, they will clean out the infected inner nerve space. Once the infected pulp is removed from the inside of the tooth and the canals have been thoroughly cleaned, the area is flushed with disinfectant to eliminate bacteria.
After the inside of the tooth has been cleaned and sanitized, the root canals will be filled with a rubber-like material called “gutta-percha.” This inert substance replaces the extracted pulp and supports the interior of the tooth to maintain structure.
Once the interior of the tooth has been filled, it will be restored with either a filling or a dental crown, depending on how much enamel was lost during the procedure. Following a root canal, your tooth will look and feel like new again.
Anterior root canals are performed on your anterior, or front, teeth. In the process of an anterior root canal, a small access hole will be made on the tongue side of the tooth. Your dentist will use this small tunnel to perform the entire root canal, so your tooth looks exactly the same when you are finished.
Posterior root canals are a more common treatment. The posterior teeth (molars and premolars) become infected more commonly than the front teeth because they have deeper grooves that can harbor cavity-causing bacteria and plaque.
In a posterior root canal, an opening is made in the top chewing surface of the tooth, which provides easy access to the interior pulp and root canals. Once the procedure is complete, the tooth is restored with either a filling or a crown, depending on which will best support the remaining tooth structure.
Pulpotomies are often called “baby root canals,” because this pediatric treatment is used to treat infected baby teeth. The process is quite similar to that of a root canal in an adult tooth.
Your child’s dentist will begin by cleaning and numbing your child’s mouth, removing decayed enamel, and creating an access tunnel in your child’s tooth to access the infected pulp. Once the infection is cleared from the roots, the interior of the tooth is cleaned and sanitized.
After the area is disinfected, a special healing dressing will be applied to the remaining pulp. This dressing will encourage the pulp to heal, which will keep the baby tooth alive and healthy until it falls out as part of your child’s natural oral development.
Root canals are a simple, common procedure with about 25 million root canals being performed every year.
You will need root canal therapy if your tooth becomes infected. This happens one of two ways:
1) A serious cavity can eat away at the outer layers of your enamel and dentin. Eventually, this decay will expose the vulnerable pulp (the material that keeps your tooth alive) to bacteria that causes the infection.
2) Dental trauma can crack the enamel and dentin, exposing the nerve and blood vessel-filled pulp to oral bacteria.
Regardless of how the infection occurs, the pulp will begin to decay and die once it becomes infected. When this happens, you’ll experience symptoms like a toothache, gum inflammation near the tooth, and tooth sensitivity.
No. It’s a common myth that root canal therapy hurts. In fact, it is the toothache caused by the infection that is painful. In modern dentistry, there’s no need for pain. Root canal therapy is similar to receiving a dental filling.
Your mouth will be completely numb during the procedure, and you can even be sedated at our office, if you wish. Getting a root canal is the best way to rid yourself of the pain and discomfort of an infected tooth, which can be very severe.
In rare cases, root canal treatment can fail. If not all of the decayed material and bacteria are removed, the tooth infection may come back. If this happens, you’ll come back to our office for endodontic retreatment. Your dentist will re-open your tooth and repeat the root canal process, and ensure that the infection is completely removed.
Not always. Crowns are usually the best way to protect your tooth after root canal therapy, and are recommended for posterior teeth (molars and premolars). However, fillings are sometimes used to fill front teeth. Your dentist will let you know if you need a crown or a filling after your root canal appointment.
Root canal therapy is usually covered by the vast majority of dental insurance policies to some degree. However, we do recommend that you consult with your insurance provider so that you understand your benefits and which treatments are covered.
Getting root canal therapy can save you from more invasive procedures, like a tooth extraction.