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Many patients have questions about their endodontic care and root canals. We encourage and welcome your questions and have provided a selection of some common questions we hear. If your question isn’t answered here, please contact us for more information.
Root Canal Treatment
Yes. While x-rays will be necessary during your endodontics treatment, we use an advanced non-film computerized system, called digital radiography, that produces radiation levels up to 90 percent lower than those of already low-dose conventional dental x-ray machinery.
You may experience some sensitivity in your tooth for the next couple of days following your root canal treatment. This can usually be treated with over-the-counter medication such as ibuprofen. Most people are able to return to work and other regular activities the day after treatment. To avoid recontamination if your tooth has not yet been sealed, try to avoid chewing on the side of the mouth where the affected tooth is. Once your tooth has been sealed, it will be restored to full function. If you are still experiencing sensitivity and discomfort after a few days have passed, please call our office.
Indications for endodontic (root canal) treatment include:
- prolonged sensitivity to heat or cold
- discoloration of the tooth
- pain on biting
- swelling or tenderness of the tooth or adjacent gums
- the appearance of an abscess on an x-ray
Unfortunately, sometimes there are no signs and symptoms. We will discuss the necessity of a root canal with you at our office since these cases vary a great deal from person to person.
Tooth pain is the main reason patients often seek treatment; therefore, many patients may experience discomfort prior to having endodontic treatment. Fortunately, modern anesthetics can make the procedure pain-free in most cases.
Seeking treatment early makes the procedure more comfortable so don't wait. When caught early, treatment should feel no different than having a regular filling. For the first few days after treatment, there may be some sensitivity to biting and tenderness in the gums and jaw, especially if there was pain or infection before the procedure. Our doctors will typically prescribe high-dose non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication, such as ibuprofen, to minimize post-operative sensitivity. Occasionally, stronger pain medications and/or antibiotics are also prescribed as needed.
The bad reputation of root canal treatment is mostly undeserved. The truth is that they are an important procedure that can make the difference between saving your tooth and losing it. Additionally, root canal treatment will treat any underlying infection to keep it from spreading and possibly affecting other teeth and causing more pain.
Modern dental techniques allow us to treat root canals much more comfortably and effectively than before. This quick procedure can save you time, pain, and money that you might otherwise have to spend on dentures, partials, and dental implants.
The endodontist removes the inflamed or infected pulp (nerve) from the inside of the tooth, carefully cleans and shapes the root canal, and then seals the prepared space. Most procedures are now performed in a single appointment ranging from 60-90 minutes (depending on the complexity of the case). However, some teeth may require additional appointments, particularly if the tooth is found to be inflamed or infected.
Once treatment is completed, you will be instructed to return to your dentist for a permanent crown or filling. This permanent restoration of the tooth is an important part of treatment because it seals the cleaned canals from the rest of your mouth, protects the tooth, and restores it to function.
An endodontist is a dentist with two years of additional specialized training in the diagnosis and treatment of diseases of the dental pulp (nerve) and surrounding structures as well as oral and facial pain.
General dentists often perform endodontic treatment in their offices and refer patients to a specialist only when the case is difficult or complex. We perform these procedures all day every day, so we’re usually able to do them faster and much more comfortably than a general dentist can.
A root canal infection will never go away on its own. An untreated root canal infection can severely comprise that tooth and can even lead to a systemic infection, especially in those people with weakened immune systems. Without treatment, there is a good chance that you may lose that tooth or cause other dental complications.
If root canal treatment is recommended for you and you have fear or anxiety about the procedure, please talk to us. Modern root canal treatment is relatively painless and will save you a great deal of dental pain and other complications.
A Root canal infection can cause:
- Spread away from the tooth
Root Canal Retreatment
Often, the only available alternative to root canal treatment or retreatment is extraction of the tooth and replacement with a dental implant or bridge. Both of these procedures are more complex and expensive than root canal treatment and will result in the loss of your natural tooth. Root canal treatment is a much less invasive procedure than extraction, and your recovery time will be shorter and more comfortable. Call our office with any questions or concerns about root canal treatment.
Root canal retreatment may be required if your tooth isn't healing as expected following root canal therapy. Some of the signs to watch for that may indicate a problem include:
- Pain and tenderness in the affected tooth and surrounding gums
- Swelling in the gums in the area of the affected tooth
- Sensitivity in the tooth that doesn’t fade
- Visible infection in a follow-up x-ray
Because reinfection may occur soon after root canal therapy or years or even decades later, it is important to continue getting regular twice yearly examinations so that any problems that develop can be caught early.
Unfortunately, the human body is sometimes unpredictable, and occasionally a root canal treatment may not heal as expected. Some of the reasons why a root canal treatment may not heal properly include:
- Erosion caused by decay on the treated tooth
- Complicated anatomy of the root canal on the treated tooth that adversely affects the healing process
- Recontamination or infection of the affected tooth before it can be properly sealed
While you are probably not excited by the prospect of a second root canal, our office performs relatively painless root canal treatments and retreatments that are safe and completed quickly thanks to the latest dental and root canal techniques.
Endodontic Surgery (Apicoectomies)
In some cases, the tissue that is affected by an infection of the root canal is located in such a position that a traditional root canal won't be enough to treat the infection and save the tooth. An apicoectomy is then used to prevent reinfection and other problems.
In an apicoectomy, we remove the tip of your tooth's root (or its apex) where the infection may be hiding. The end of the root will then be sealed off with a filling. Because your root tips are so small, this procedure often requires the use of an operating microscope, which is why an apicoectomy may also be referred to as endodontic microsurgery.
Oral Trauma and Cracked Teeth
Call our office right away! We are available around the clock to help with dental emergencies. We will find and treat the source of your pain quickly so that you can get on with your life. If further treatment is needed, we will work with you to create a treatment plan to meet your needs.
Dental emergencies can happen at any time. If you are experiencing a dental emergency, call our office right away. We are available 24 hours a day to help you. If you are experiencing any of the following, you are having a dental emergency and should seek treatment right away:
- Severe pain in your teeth or gums
- Severe swelling in the gums or other soft tissues of the mouth
- A tooth that has been fractured or cracked
- A tooth that has been knocked out or knocked out of place
- Traumatic injury to the gums or soft tissues