Root Canal Therapy

Root canals for healthy teethUnderstanding what a root canal is:

  • Root canal therapy is one of the most common dental procedures performed.  This simple treatment can save your natural teeth and prevent the need of dental implants or bridges.
  • At the center of your tooth is the pulp. Pulp is a collection of small blood vessels and nerves that help to build the surrounding tooth when you are young.  Infection of the pulp and root canal spaces can be caused by trauma to the tooth, deep decay (cavity), cracks and chips, or repeated dental procedures (fillings and crowns).
  • An infected tooth may present as sensitivity to temperature such as hot and cold, sensitivity to pressure such as touch, biting, or chewing, or more vague sensitivity such as sharp shooting pain, throbbing pain, or deep aching pain of the jaw.  Dental infections may also present with swelling around the tooth or in the jaw.  These are much more dangerous and may require antibiotic treatment as well to rid the body of the infection.

Some teeth may actually be asymptomatic for a time, but harbor an infection that will one day become symptomatic.

Understanding how a root canal is performed:

Root canal therapy is basically the cleansing, disinfection, and sealing of the pulal spaces within your tooth.  We start by removing the old filling in the tooth and gaining access into the pulpal and root canal space.  Then these spaces are cleaned with state of the art equipment and disinfected with a very powerful liquid chemical rinse.  Once cleaned to our satisfaction, the root canal spaces are sealed with a special filling material.  This seal, along with the new permanent filling and possible crown, helps prevent future infection of these spaces.  Success for this type of treatment occurs in well over 90% of cases.

From our patients perspective, this procedure is similar to having a filling placed in your tooth.  There is no discomfort during the procedure as it is performed under a generous amount of local anesthesia.  Root canal therapy generally takes a little longer than having a filling placed, but it is usually completed in one visit.  You will be able to drive home after treatment, and you will probably be comfortable enough to return immediately to your normal routine.

Understanding what to do following treatment:

  • After root canal treatment is completed we will thoroughly explain all post-operative instructions and needed use of post-treatment medications.  Please see section on Home Care Instructions: After Endodontic Treatment.  We will send your dentist a letter detailing your procedure and prognosis.  We will also send x-rays of your procedure to your dentist.  You should then contact your dentist’s office for a follow-up visit to address permanently restoring your tooth.  This will be accomplished with a new permanent filling and maybe a crown or bridge.  Your general dentist will decide on how best to restore your tooth.  Your tooth may be very brittle during this time so it is very important to not chew on your tooth and try and schedule an appointment with your dentist within two-to-six weeks.
  • It is rare for endodontic patients to experience complications after routine endodontic treatment or microsurgery. If a problem does occur, however, we are available at all times to respond.  Please contact our office immediately.  To prevent further future decay, please continue to practice good dental hygiene.

Understanding the cost involved:

  • Many factors affect cost associated with endodontic treatment, such as the severity of damage associated the tooth and which tooth is affected.  Some teeth are more complicated (more canals to clean and seal) and time-consuming than others and the cost is reflective of the time generally needed to complete such procedures.  In general, endodontic treatment with appropriate restoration of the tooth, is less expensive than removing a tooth and replacing it with an implant or bridge.