Restorative dental treatments vary based on the extensiveness of damage. In our Pembroke Pines and Miami offices, we provide a full spectrum of services that enable us to meet our patients’ needs. When presented with extensive dental damage, we may recommend root canal treatment.
What is a root canal and why is treatment necessary?
Beneath the crown of each tooth is soft tissue filled with blood vessels and nerves. This is called dental pulp. Within this inner chamber of tissue, there are also roots. These roots extend from the pulp chamber down through the gums, and they tether to the jawbone. Roots stabilize teeth, and they also deliver blood supply and nutrients to them.
A root canal may be necessary if a tooth suffers a direct injury that causes it to chip or break. Injury may also occur completely inside of the tooth, never seen on the outside, but felt. Finally, and most commonly, root canal therapy becomes necessary because decay has penetrated through enamel and dentin to cause infection within dental pulp. Root canal therapy removes this infected tissue as a way to save natural tooth structure.
How do I know if I need a root canal?
Signs that you may need a root canal include:
- Pain when you bite or chew
- Temperature sensitivity (hot or cold)
- Severe tooth pain
- A dull, persistent toothache
- Physical evidence observed on a dental x-ray
My tooth doesn’t hurt. Why do I need a root canal?
Sometimes, tooth pain never extends beyond a dull ache, then it diminishes. In some cases, antibiotic treatment for a toothache may resolve pain. However, this does not stop the infection that caused pain originally. Finally, there are instances in which infection simply does not cause pain. In such situations, the need for root canal treatment is determined by observation of dental x-rays and clinical examination. Without appropriate treatment for infected dental pulp, bacteria may spread to other areas, destroying the tooth and degrading gum and bone tissue.
The Root Canal Process
Root canal therapy is a procedure that is only slightly more complex than getting a filling. The process involves:
- Numbing nerves to the treatment area with local anesthetic.
- Removing damaged enamel and dentin using a small dental instrument.
- Accessing the root canal and using tiny dental files to remove soft tissue in canals.
- Sterilizing root canals with a liquid solution.
- Applying gutta-percha into root canals to seal them against bacterial contamination.
- Affixing a temporary crown to protect the tooth.
Is root canal treatment painful?
Root canal therapy is performed with numbing medication to prevent discomfort. Mild sedation may also be included in treatment to enhance physical comfort and peace of mind. Be sure to speak with office staff about your interest in sedation before the day of your procedure.
How long does a root canal take?
We may set aside 1 to 2 hours for root canal procedures in order to accommodate any unforeseen circumstances. The appointment may include initial preparation for the procedure and x-rays and impressions to prepare for the temporary and final crown.
What happens after the procedure?
After a root canal, the tooth will be protected by a temporary crown. This restoration stays in place for approximately two weeks, until the final crown is ready for placement. There is a possibility that the jaw will feel slightly sore for a few days, or that a toothache sensation may occur. These are normal side effects related to the slight disruption of nerve endings during treatment. Post-treatment comfort can be supported with over-the-counter ibuprofen or acetaminophen (not to be taken together).
Why not just extract an infected tooth?
The best option in dental care is to preserve natural tooth structure whenever possible. This is the purpose of root canal therapy. If we were to extract the infected tooth, we create the need for tooth replacement. Removing the tooth and root means that the cycle of bone regeneration in the jaw is interrupted, as well; and this leads to bone loss unless we replace the extracted tooth with a dental implant.
Root canal therapy represents an appropriate and cost-effective method of treating damaged pulp. To learn more about this procedure, or to schedule your routine exam and cleaning, call our Miami or Pembroke Pines office.