You have been referred to our office for root canal therapy because your dentist believes that you need the expert care of an endodontist. As specialists, this is the only type of dental treatment we perform.
What is Root Canal Therapy?
Endodontics is a dental specialty that treats teeth with diseased pulp and affected supporting bone and tries to save the teeth for a normal life time of use. It usually consists of the removal of the pulp, sterilization of the root canals and finally filling the root canals. Endodontic treatment may take one or more visits.
When is root canal therapy needed?
Root canal therapy becomes necessary when the dental pulp or nerve becomes diseased. You may have a diseased pulp due to decay under old restorations or to a deep cavity that approaches the pulp. It may be due to an injury, such as a blow or it may be caused by several other reasons that can cause irritation leading to inflammation and a damaged pulp.
It is advisable to remove the diseased pulp of a tooth since it can become infected. If this occurs, it may become acute, causing severe pain or swelling. Root canal therapy attempts to remove any source of infection from within the root. Once this is done, your normal body healing mechanism will usually take care of the tissues around the tooth, so that any irritation of the bone and gum surrounding the affected root may be resolved and replaced by healthy tissues.
The pulp is responsible for most of the early growth and development of the tooth. Once this phase is completed early in your life, the pulp may be removed with the expectation that the tooth will remain functional as long as any other tooth. This is because the tissues which surround the root are quite adequate to support the nutritional requirements of a fully developed tooth under all normal circumstances. Therefore, since endodontics removes only the pulp, the treated tooth can still function normally. It is never a dead tooth, it is merely pulpless.
We have found that endodontic treatment can be a painless experience. We generally give an injection of local anesthetic for each treatment and analgesia (“sweet air”) may be used.
After Root Canal Therapy
When root canal therapy is completed, you must return to your general dentist for a permanent restoration of the tooth. This should be done as soon as possible after completion of treatment. Your dentist can best decide, based on years of experience what type of permanent restoration (filling, inlay or crown) is necessary to protect your tooth.
With proper care, teeth that have been treated with root canal therapy are able to last as long as other natural teeth.
Sometimes a tooth that has received endodontic treatment fails to heal. Pain may occur months or even years after successful treatment. Even when your tooth has failed to heal or develops new problems, you have a second chance. Retreatment may be able to create a more favorable environment for healing that would allow you to keep your tooth.
Sometimes, surgery may be necessary to treat root surfaces and bone around the root that has not healed. The most common surgical procedure is called an apicoectomy. If inflammation or infection persist in the bone around the end of your tooth after a root canal procedure an apicoectomy may need to be performed.
What is an Apicoectomy?
Your endodontist will make an incision near the tooth to see the underlying bone and to remove any inflamed or infected tissue. The tip of the root will also be removed. A small filling may be placed to seal the end of the root canal. Stitches will be placed in the gum to help the tissue to heal. Over a period of months, the bone will heal around the end of the root. You may feel some discomfort or experience swelling while the incision heals. This is normal for any surgical procedure. Your endodontist will recommend appropriate medication to alleviate your discomfort.