According to the American Dental Association, more than 20 million teeth are treated endodontically each year. By choosing endodontic treatment, you are choosing to keep your natural teeth as a healthy foundation for chewing and biting for years to come. A naturally retained tooth is the greatest way to maintain a healthy, vital and functioning mouth.
For years, root canal treatment has been plagued by preconceived notions. It is our goal to allay your fears and share information on how easy and efficient and pain free modern root canals are. The following information is a brief attempt to clarify the question: “What is a root canal?”
What Is Endodontics (Root Canal Therapy)?
Endodontics is a specialty of dentistry recognized by the American Dental Association dealing with treatment of the tooth, pulp and surrounding tissues. When you look at your tooth in the mirror, what you see is the crown. The rest of the tooth, the portion hidden beneath the gum line, is the root. The outer portion of the root is a hard tissue called dentin. The inside channel, or root canal, contains the pulp, a soft tissue consisting of blood vessels and nerves. Bacteria introduced into the pulp because of tooth decay, periodontal disease, or a fracture can cause inflammation, pain and severe damage to the pulp, requiring root canal treatment.
Who Performs Endodontic Treatment?
Endodontists are dentists with special training in endodontic procedures. To become specialists, they complete dental school and an additional two years of advanced training in endodontics. They perform routine as well as difficult and very complex endodontic surgery. Endodontists are also experienced at finding the cause of oral and facial pain that has been difficult to diagnose.
What Is Endodontic Treatment?
Many patients believe that when having a “root canal” procedure the endodontist is removing the root of the tooth, this is not true. Imagine holding a ballpoint pen in your hand. It is composed of the outer plastic shell and the inner ink cartridge. The “nerve” is the ink cartridge. In it’s most basic, the endodontist removes the ink from the cartridge and cleans the inside of the plastic shell. Once that is done, the endodontist fills the shell with a natural filling material. “Endo” is the Greek word for “inside” and “odont” is Greek for “tooth.” Endodontic treatment treats the inside of the tooth.
The diagram on the right depicts the entire tooth and its supporting and nurturing components.
To understand endodontic treatment, it helps to know something about the anatomy of the tooth. Inside the tooth, under the white enamel and a hard layer called the dentin, is a soft tissue called the pulp. The pulp contains blood vessels, nerves, and connective tissue and creates the surrounding hard tissues of the tooth during development.
The pulp extends from the crown of the tooth to the tip of the roots where it connects to the tissues surrounding the root. The pulp is important during a tooth’s growth and development. However, once a tooth is fully mature it can survive without the pulp, because the tooth continues to be nourished by the tissues surrounding it.
Does A Root Canal Procedure Hurt?
The answer to that question is both easy and complex. Root canals are diagnosed and are performed to relieve the pain that results from tooth decay, periodontal disease or fracture damaging a tooth’s pulp.
Our goal is to alleviate your pain in a safe, comfortable environment. During the procedure you should be pain free. Our caring staff and doctors strive to make the process a painless one.
For the first few days after treatment, your tooth may feel sensitive, especially if there was pain or infection before the procedure. This discomfort can be relieved with over-the-counter or prescription medications. If necessary, the doctor will prescribe narcotic analgesics. It is imperative that you follow your doctor’s instructions carefully.
Your tooth may continue to feel slightly different from your other teeth for some time after your endodontic treatments is completed. However, if you have severe pain or pressure or pain that lasts more than a few days, call your endodontist.
We are available 24/7 to answer any of your questions and concerns. Please do not hesitate to contact us if we can be of any help.
What About Infection Control?
Our office adheres to the most rigorous standards of infection control advocated by OSHA, (Occupational Safety and Health Administration), the US Centers for Disease Control and the American Dental Association. We are members of the Organization for Safety and Asepsis Procedures (OSAP), an organization dedicated to advancing infection control. We utilize autoclave sterilization and barrier techniques to eliminate any risk of infection.
Why Can’t I Use Antibiotics To Make The Abscess Go Away?
Unfortunately, when a tooth is infected, the blood supply (pulp) running through the tooth is affected as well. As a result, there is no way to contact the antibiotics to the needed area. They do however, assist in controlling and eliminating infection in the surrounding bone before and after root canal therapy.
Will My Tooth Last Forever After Treatment?
Root canal therapy has been reported to be up to 95% successful. Many factors influence the treatment outcome: the patient’s general health, bone support around the tooth, strength of the tooth including possible fracture lines, shape and condition of the root and nerve canal(s) and continued follow-up care with your general dentist. Although we cannot guarantee the successful outcome of root canal procedures, you can be assured that the most advanced techniques and treatments modalities will be performed to ensure the best prognosis possible.