Flower Mound General Dentistry
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Root Canals (Endodontic Therapy)


Once upon a time, if you had a tooth with a diseased nerve, you'd probably lose that tooth. Today, with a special dental procedure called a root canal therapy, you may save that tooth. Inside each tooth is the pulp, which provides nutrients and nerves to the tooth. It runs like a thread down through the root. When the pulp is diseased or injured, the pulp tissue dies. If you don't remove it, your tooth gets infected and you could lose it. After the pulp is removed, the root canal is cleaned and sealed off to protect it.  Afterward, a crown will need to be placed over the tooth to help make it stronger.

Most of the time, a root canal is a relatively simple procedure with little or no discomfort involving one to three visits. Best of all, it can save your tooth and your smile!

WHAT IS A ROOT CANAL?

Your dentist uses root canal treatment to find the cause and then treat problems of the tooth's soft core (the dental pulp). Years ago, teeth with diseased or injured pulps were removed. Today, root canal treatment has given dentists a safe way of saving teeth.


WHAT IS THE DENTAL PULP?


The pulp is the soft tissue that contains nerves, blood vessels and connective tissue. It lies within the tooth and extends from the crown of the tooth to the tip of the root in the bone of the jaws.


WHAT HAPPENS IF THE PULP GETS INJURED?


An abscessed (infected) tooth caused by tooth decay. When the pulp is diseased or injured and can't repair itself, it dies. The most common cause of pulp death is a cracked tooth or a deep cavity. Both of these problems can let germs (bacteria) enter the pulp. Germs can cause an infection inside the tooth. Left without treatment, pus builds up at the root tip, in the jawbone, forming a "pus-pocket" called an abscess. An abscess can cause damage to the bone around the teeth.


WHY DOES THE PULP NEED TO BE REMOVED?


When the infected pulp is not removed, pain and swelling can result. Certain byproducts of the infection can injure your jaw bones. Without treatment, your tooth may have to be removed.


WHAT DOES TREATMENT INVOLVE?


Treatment often involves from one to three visits. During treatment, your general dentist or endodontist (a dentist who specializes in problems of the pulp) removes the diseased pulp. The pulp chamber and root canal(s) of the tooth are then cleaned and sealed.


HERE'S HOW YOUR TOOTH IS SAVED THROUGH TREATMENT:


  1. First, an opening is made through the crown of the tooth and into the pulp chamber.
  2. The pulp is then removed. The root canals are cleaned and shaped to a form that can be filled.
  3. Medications may be put in the pulp chamber and root canals to help get rid of germs and prevent infection.
  4. A temporary filling will be placed in the crown opening to protect the tooth between dental visits. Your dentist may leave the tooth open for a few days to drain. You might also be given medicine to help control infection that may have spread beyond the tooth.
  5. The pulp chamber and canals are filled and sealed.
  6. In the final step, a crown is usually placed over the tooth. If an endodontist performs the treatment, he or she will recommend that you return to your family dentist for this final step.
  7. The crown of the tooth is then restored.


WHAT ARE THE SIGNS OF NEEDING ENDODONTIC TREATMENT?


Signs to look for include pain, prolonged sensitivity to heat or cold, tenderness to touch and chewing, discoloration of the tooth, and swelling, drainage and tenderness in the lymph nodes as well as nearby bone and gingival tissues. Sometimes, however, there are no symptoms.


HOW DOES ENDODONTIC TREATMENT SAVE THE TOOTH?


The dentist removes the inflamed or infected pulp, carefully cleans and shapes the inside of the canal, a channel inside the root, then fills and seals the space. Afterward, you will need a crown or other restoration on the tooth to protect and restore it to full function. After restoration, the tooth continues to function like any other tooth.


WILL I FEEL PAIN DURING OR AFTER THE PROCEDURE?


Many endodontic procedures are performed to relieve the pain of toothaches caused by pulp inflammation or infection. With modern techniques and anesthetics, most patients report that they are comfortable during the procedure.  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. Follow your dentist's instructions carefully.  Your tooth may continue to feel slightly different from your other teeth for some time after your endodontic treatment is completed. However, if you have severe pain or pressure that lasts more than a few days, call your dentist.


HOW MUCH WILL THE PROCEDURE COST?


The cost varies depending on how complex the problem is and which tooth is affected. Molars are more difficult to treat, the fee is usually more. Most dental insurance policies provide some coverage for endodontic treatment. Generally, endodontic treatment and restoration of the natural tooth are less expensive than the alternative of having the tooth extracted. An extracted tooth must be replaced with a bridge or implant to restore chewing function and prevent adjacent teeth from shifting. These procedures tend to cost more than endodontic treatment and appropriate restoration. With root canal treatment you save your natural teeth and money.


WILL THE TOOTH NEED ANY SPECIAL CARE OR ADDITIONAL TREATMENT AFTER ENDODONTIC TREATMENT?


You should not chew or bite on the treated tooth until you have had it restored by your dentist. The unrestored tooth is susceptible to fracture, so you should see your dentist for a full restoration as soon as possible. Otherwise, you need only practice good oral hygiene, including brushing, flossing, and regular checkups and cleanings. Most endodontically treated teeth last as long as other natural teeth. In a few cases, a tooth that has undergone endodontic treatment does not heal or the pain continues. Occasionally, the tooth may become painful or diseased months or even years after successful treatment. Often when this occurs, redoing the endodontic procedure can save the tooth.


CAN ALL TEETH BE TREATED ENDODONTICALLY?


Most teeth can be treated. Occasionally, a tooth can’t be saved because the root canals are not accessible, the root is severely fractured, the tooth doesn’t have adequate bone support, or the tooth cannot be restored. However, advances in endodontics are making it possible to save teeth that even a few years ago would have been lost. When endodontic treatment is not effective, surgery may be able to save the tooth.

 

HOW LONG WILL THE RESTORED TOOTH LAST?


Your restored tooth could last a lifetime if you continue to care for your teeth and gums. However, regular checkups are necessary. As long as the root(s) of a treated tooth are nourished by the tissues around it, your tooth will remain healthy.