Toothaches can mean several different things, but they are most commonly symptoms of a tooth infection. Tooth infections are treated with root canal therapy, and they really aren’t as bad as their reputations claim. These days, root canal therapy is more similar to getting a cavity filled, and receiving treatment will help you get out of pain instead of dealing with the discomfort of an infected tooth.
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, including the nerves of the treatment area. You may also opt to receive sedation with nitrous oxide to ensure you feel comfortable throughout the process.
Once you are comfortably numb, your dentist will begin removing any decayed material starting with the enamel. From there, they will move toward the pulp. 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.
Anterior root canals are performed on your anterior, or front, teeth. They are generally considered to be more straightforward than posterior (back teeth) root canals. This is because the front teeth typically have only one canal, and are easy to access and visualize.
After a front tooth has been treated with a root canal, it is often restored with a tooth-colored filling to stabilize and protect the tooth. Sometimes, the tooth will require a crown, rather than a filling, if the tooth structure has been more severely compromised.
Posterior teeth are back teeth, also called molars and premolars. In a posterior root canal, an opening is made in the top chewing surface of the tooth, which provides an access point to the interior pulp and root canals. Posterior teeth commonly have multiple roots, which means they have multiple canals that need to be cleaned and disinfected. This makes posterior root canals generally more complex than anterior 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. In the case of molar root canals, a crown is always recommended to optimally stabilize the tooth.
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 tooth material, and creating an opening in your child’s tooth to access the infected pulp. Once the infection is cleared from the nerve, 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:
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 when, 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, in terms of what you feel during treatment.
Your mouth will be completely numb during the procedure, and you can even be sedated at our office with nitrous oxide or oral-conscious sedation, 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. Even if treated under ideal conditions, the tooth infection may come back. If this happens, a root-canal specialist will evaluate the tooth and can often save the tooth with root canal retreatment.
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.