Over 25 million endodontic treatments, also known as root canals, take place every year. Contrary to popular opinion, endodontic treatment is quite comfortable due to advances in anesthesiology and post-surgery pain is very mild. In many cases, a root canal procedure is the simplest and fastest way to fix inner tooth decay. However, sometimes alternative treatments may be called for that could be more beneficial to a patient depending on their individual needs and overall dental and medical health.
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What Is A Root Canal?
A root canal is a funnel-shaped channel full of soft tissue (called “pulp”.)
Pulp can be found beneath the tooth’s enamel, the hard white exterior, and beneath an even harder protective layer called dentin. This soft pulp runs from the surface of a tooth down through the tooth itself and into the root. Both root stems have a pulp. The canal is where the main nerve tissue in the tooth is found. Your root canal also has a number of blood vessels and other tissue.
The term is also used to describe a dental procedure for removing decaying or infected tissue underneath a tooth.
Do You Need A Root Canal?
The most common reason to get the procedure is infected tissue under a tooth from severe tooth decay. Tooth decay, also known as demineralization, is the process where the exterior of your teeth gets broken down and is something that happens naturally. Your body has systems to rebuild your teeth enamel, the exterior of your teeth. Sometimes the tooth decay gets inside your teeth and starts damaging nerves. This gets very painful and can cause long-term harm. That’s when you need to decide if a root canal or endodontic treatment would be right for you.
In addition to tooth decay, broken teeth can also allow bacteria into the root canal leading to an infection that needs to be treated to prevent the infected tooth from being totally destroyed. A sudden impact or trauma can also cause inflammation or infection. Often time’s this happens because of microscopic cracks that form on the surface of the teeth, allowing bacteria into the root canal.
During a root canal the infected, inflamed or decaying pulp inside the tooth is removed and replaced with a long lasting filling. The goal is no more pain, no more decay, no more infection.
What Is Involved In A Root Canal Treatment?
A root canal is a delicate procedure. Because the infected area under the tooth contains nerve tissue, we administer a local anesthetic to numb the tooth and the surrounding area. We can also provide sedation with Nitrous Oxide or conscious sedation to relieve any anxiety you may be feeling.
Once the anesthetic has started working, we remove any infected tissue under the affected tooth. The root canal chambers are cleaned thoroughly with several medicaments that disinfect and dissolve any tissue and bacteria that may remain.
We then fill the empty space in the root canal. This is done with a rubbery cement to seal the area and prevent future contamination. Finally, we will x-ray the treated tooth to ensure that no air pockets remain in the canal and permanently seal the hole, filling the remaining cavity in the upper part of the tooth. It is then necessary to place a permanent filling within the tooth and a crown on the tooth to ensure that no bacteria can leak into it.
After the procedure is complete, you’ll be able to chew your food and go through everyday life as if nothing had ever happened. A tooth with a root canal will last a long time – often times even lasting throughout the patient’s life.
What Are The Alternatives To A Root Canal?
The alternative to a root canal is tooth extraction. This may sound like a scary proposition at first. But extractions can often be the best scenario if it becomes clear that preserving the tooth will cause complications in the future. If you have a tooth removed, there are several options available to you.
- Partial Denture – This is a removable denture that is often just called a “partial.”
- Bridge – More permanent that a partial denture resembling a real tooth.
- Dental Implant – This is a permanent artificial tooth implanted in your gums and jawbone. The technology used in dental implants has vastly improved in recent years. This implant can look and feel nearly identical to your actual tooth.
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Let’s Have An Open Discussion About Your Root Canal
We believe that accurately assessing and diagnosing the proper treatment for an infected root canal is vital to your dental health. If possible, we avoid the procedure altogether. However, in some situations, a root canal may be the best option for a patient. For some patients, a root canal treatment may not be a good option. The immune support and health of the patient, the condition of the tooth and the surrounding structures must all be considered. Like any dental treatment, there are pros and cons, risks and benefits.
The first step to determining your need for a root canal is a complete assessment of your dental health and medical well-being. As holistic dentists, we will evaluate the impact of any dental procedure on your overall health and wellness. If we discover that your root canal infection has become acute, we will discuss your treatment options. If necessary, we’ll refer you to an endodontic specialist.
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Root Canal Resources
We suggest you visit the following site to help you better understand your options: