Don’t let the name scare you. This simple outpatient procedure can actually be a quick, painless, and effective way to save your teeth and safeguard your smile.
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 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 the pulp tissue, your tooth gets infected and you could lose it. After the dentist removes the pulp, the root canal is cleaned and sealed off to protect it. Then your dentist places a crown 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!
Will it cause discomfort?
During a root canal the tooth is anesthetized (numbed). There should be no feeling at all. We advise taking Advil, Tylenol or aspirin (whichever you prefer) while your tooth is still numb to ease the transition when the anesthetic wears off. In some situations the dentist may prescribe additional pain medication to take for a short period following the treatment.
Should I take my antibiotics?
It is important that you take your antibiotics to help rid the area of infection. Finish the entire prescription as directed, even if the tooth feels fine. Taking pain medication is optional, but finishing antibiotics, as prescribed, is necessary.
Do root canals always work?
A root canal is a type of therapy with a high rate of success, but it is not always successful. Sometimes the infection doesn’t clear up and the tooth has to be either: a) retreated, b) have an apicoectomy and retrofill (lay the gum tissue back, curette out the infection, and smooth off the end of the root), or c) extract the tooth. Because the success or failure of a root canal can result from causes that are not under our control (such as tooth anatomy, or a low patient immune system), we have the following policy: If your root canal fails within one year of treatment we will follow up with an equal cost amount of treatment to restore the area at no cost to you. However, if your root canal fails after one year it is our policy to perform the necessary treatment at our normal fees.
What happens after treatment?
After the blood vessels and nerve tissue are taken out of the tooth, it is technically “dead”. The reason the tooth may be sore is because the area around the tooth is inflamed. The tooth will become dry and brittle and can fracture. That is why all teeth with root canals need a build-up and a crown. Sometimes a post and core is necessary. We would then place a crown over the build-up or post and core to hold the tooth together. The build-up and crown are each separate procedures, with separate fees and are not included in the fee for a root canal. After the root canal, build-up and crown, the tooth should appear and feel like a natural tooth.