There isn’t a procedure we perform at Clear Lake Dental Care more misunderstood than the root canal. Patients associate pain with the procedure, which isn’t the case. The truth is — root canals can save a tooth that would otherwise need extraction, and the procedure doesn’t involve any more pain than filling a cavity. At Clear Lake Dental Care, we perform our own root canals, saving you the inconvenience of having to go to a separate endodontist.
What is a root canal?
All of our teeth have three layers: the outer hard enamel, the dentin (also hard), and the pulp. The pulp is where you’ll find the blood vessels, nerves, and connective tissue. The pulp extends the entire length of the tooth, from the crown (top) down to the tip of the roots. The passages that run down into the roots are the “root canals.”
When decay attacks a tooth, in most cases the decay affects the enamel or the dentin layers. But when the decay penetrates the pulp, the entire interior of the tooth must be removed and disinfected. This is known as a root canal.
Why does my tooth need a root canal?
There are various ways a tooth can become infected. Deep decay, when a tooth has not been attended to, is the main reason. But decay can also form from a deep crack, plus repeated dental procedures and trauma can trigger a process where decay forms. Once decay has entered the pulp, however, the tooth has two options: extraction or a root canal. A root canal can save the natural tooth by eliminating the infection, cleaning out the tooth, and placing a crown on it.
Who can benefit from a root canal?
What are the symptoms that my tooth is infected?
When the infection reaches the pulp of the tooth things can get ugly. Here are the symptoms associated with an infected tooth needing a root canal:
- Intense pain
- Prolonged sensitivity to hot or cold
- Tenderness to the touch and when chewing
- Discoloration of the tooth
- Swelling or tenderness of the surrounding gum tissue
- Persistent pimples on the gums
In some cases, a patient won’t yet have the above symptoms but we can see the infection on dental x-rays during your routine cleanings and exams. The infection won’t yet have reached the nerves of the tooth.
How is a root canal performed?
At Clear Lake Dental Care, we perform root canals in a single appointment.
The first step is to remove the infection. We begin by numbing the area so you don’t feel anything, and we place a dental dam to keep the area dry. We drill a small hole in the crown of the tooth to gain access to the interior. Through that hole, we use very small files to remove the infected pulp, damaged nerve tissue, and other debris. The tooth is completely emptied. It is then flushed with disinfectant to remove any remaining debris and to kill any lingering bacteria.
Now the empty, disinfected tooth needs attention. We fill the empty pulp chamber and root canals with a rubber-based material called gutta-percha, and then we seal the hole. The hole in the crown is filled with a composite resin filling. In some cases that finishes the procedure. Usually, however, the tooth will require a crown to protect it and to return strength and function that has been compromised by having to remove the interior pulp. For the crown, we use our CEREC same-day crown system. We design the crown in the system software and send the data to the milling station. The CEREC system then mills your crown out of dental porcelain to our exact specifications in about 30 minutes. We place the crown onto the tooth, check the fit, and permanently cement it down.
Is a root canal painful?
Some people believe root canals are painful procedures. This couldn’t be more wrong. Modern anesthesia, methods, and technology have made a root canal no more painful than having a typical filling placed in a tooth. The infection creating the need for the root canal is what is extremely painful because the tooth nerves are inflamed. But the root canal removes all the nerves from the tooth, so it no longer has any sensation at all. After your root canal, the inflamed gums around your tooth may need a couple days to calm down, and your jaw may have a bit of soreness because it was open for a period of time. But this is not acute pain and is easily manageable with over-the-counter pain relievers.
Does a root canal require follow-up appointments?
Because of our CEREC same-day crown system, at Clear Lake Dental Care we only need one appointment to remove the infection, clean the tooth, design the crown, and place the crown. This contrasts with most practices that don’t perform root canals, requiring patients to go to a separate endodontist. Plus, without the CEREC system, the crown has to be fabricated at a separate dental lab, a process that takes two weeks and makes for yet another appointment. Here we do it all in a single visit!
Is there a case where a tooth would need extraction rather than a root canal?
The methods involved with root canals have become quite advanced, so very few teeth aren’t able to be saved with a root canal. But there are some occasions. If a tooth has such extensive decay that it compromises too much of the tooth structure, it will need extraction. This can also be true if the tooth has a severe crack, usually one that extends down below the gumline.
recovery after A root canal
After your root canal, you may have some soreness (mainly in the muscles from holding your mouth open). If your gum tissue was inflamed, it may take a couple days to calm down fully. But generally, you’re free to use the tooth normally. You’ll notice that the extreme pain and sensitivity you had previously are now completely gone.
How long will my tooth Last With A root canal?
Once we remove the infected pulp, fill the tooth, and place the crown your tooth should last as long as the other teeth in your mouth. People assume that the pulp is critical to the lifespan of the tooth, but the pulp is really only important during the growth and development of the tooth. Once the tooth is fully mature it can survive without the pulp, as the surrounding tissues provide nourishment. With good hygiene, a tooth that has had a root canal can last for the rest of the patient’s life.