If the prospect of a root canal procedure has you running for the hills, you may want to consider reading over this list of frequently asked questions before you end up cowering in a corner:
- What is root canal therapy? Root canal treatment is performed when decay or trauma has damaged a tooth causing it to die. A dentist or endodontist performs a procedure to remove the diseased or damaged pulp from the tooth and then refills the tooth cavity.
- Is root canal therapy painful? In reality, root canal treatment is intended to relieve pain, not cause it. Because the procedures are very similar, you should experience no more discomfort than having a cavity filled.
- What happens after root canal therapy? Your tooth may be slightly sensitive for a few days, but over-the-counter pain relievers are usually sufficient to relieve any pain you may experience. In order for your tooth to return to full functionality, a crown or other restoration will need to be placed after the root canal therapy is performed.
- What if I opt not to choose root canal therapy? Untreated damage or infection in your tooth can travel through the roots and lead to an abscess or larger infection.
- Is there an alternative to root canal therapy? You could relieve the pain and infection by having your tooth removed. However, this can cause problems such as bone loss, migration of teeth, and bite problems.
In the case of a severely damaged or decayed tooth, the ideal solution is to save your natural tooth through root canal therapy and restoration. Contrary to popular belief, a root canal procedure is no more uncomfortable than having a filling placed in a cavity, and can have enormous benefits to your long-term oral health. Consult with your dental professional to get answers to any other questions or concerns you may have regarding root canal therapy so you can alleviate your fears and return to your healthy smile.
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Root canal therapy is a painless procedure performed when decay has caused enough damage to a tooth that the tooth is dying or has already died. During treatment, your dentist or endodontist removes the diseased or damaged pulp from the tooth and then refills the tooth cavity. To ensure a successful and pleasant treatment, here are some basic do’s and don’ts to follow:
- Do take any medication your dentist has prescribed for you to take prior to root canal therapy.
- Don’t anticipate pain; be calm and relaxed during your treatment.
- Do expect mild discomfort for 2-3 days following the procedure. Apply an ice pack and sleep with your head elevated to minimize swelling.
- Don’t skip on taking prescribed pain medications, even if you are not experiencing extreme pain.
- Do avoid biting on hard foods or meddling with the affected tooth during the course of treatment.
- Don’t drink excessively hot or cold beverages until the completion of treatment.
- Do continue normal brushing on the root canal treated tooth.
- Don’t smoke or drink alcohol within 24 hours of root canal therapy.
- Do eat a soft diet for several days and avoid chewing on the treated tooth until a permanent restoration is placed.
- Don’t delay having the treated tooth capped with a crown or other restoration to avoid fracture or additional damage, causing failure of your root canal therapy.
- Do contact your dental professional immediately should you have any complications or questions during your recovery, and make sure to keep any follow-up appointments scheduled by your dentist or endodontist.
Root canal therapy has a 95% success rate. By following these simple guidelines, you can help to ensure a positive result from your root canal therapy and enjoy many more years of a healthy smile.
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A toothache can make everything seem terrible. Your mouth hurts, your head aches, you can’t eat what you want, you can’t sleep comfortably – in general, you feel awful! Your tooth pain may be a result of decay that has caused an infection in your tooth pulp, calling for root canal therapy.
What does that mean exactly? When the inside of your tooth or the pulp becomes infected, it causes the tooth to deteriorate and cause pain and sensitivity. Action is needed to eliminate the infection and protect the tooth from worse damage. Root canal treatment is the best solution because the damaged pulp is removed and the inside of the tooth is thoroughly cleaned and restored.
To accomplish a root canal procedure, your dentist will drill a small hole in your tooth to access the pulp and expertly remove it. Once the area is cleaned and disinfected, your tooth will be filled with a special material and sealed for protection. Finally, a dental crown is usually placed on top to complete the root canal procedure. You are left with a fully repaired and protected tooth.
What benefits does root canal treatment provide?
- Pain is eliminated with the repair of your tooth and removal of infection.
- Your ability to chew and bite foods will return to normal.
- You will no longer experience tooth sensitivity to hot or cold items.
- The damaged tooth will be restored so that it looks natural in your smile.
- Your other teeth won’t have excessive wear to make up for the damaged tooth.
With the advances in dentistry making root canal therapy faster and less painful, your procedure may be completed in as little as one trip to the dentist. Once the process is complete, you can expect your fully restored tooth to last as long as the rest of your teeth.
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A toothache can ruin your life, at least until you have treatment that relieves the pain. Headaches, mouth pain, or inability to chew can all accompany a tooth problem. It is not unusual for tooth pain to be linked to tooth decay, and when it becomes advanced you just can’t ignore it. This is when root canal therapy is valuable.
What is the procedure?:
Root canal treatment focuses on the pulp cavity, which is the inside of the tooth. When the pulp is infected or inflamed, it needs to be completely removed from the tooth in order for it to heal. It doesn’t matter if the damage to the pulp results from severe decay, tooth fracture, faulty crown, repeated dental procedures, or trauma. Even if the damage isn’t visible or causing unbearable pain, the bottom line is that the interior of the tooth must be cleaned out, disinfected and sealed to prevent future infection. A crown is typically placed on top of the tooth to protect it and complete the procedure.
Why is it necessary?:
If left untreated, an infected pulp can lead to intense pain or spread to other parts of the body. Root canal treatment is the best way to save the tooth and restore its function. Other benefits of the procedure are maintaining the tooth’s natural look, protecting other teeth from excessive wear, restoring normal chewing ability, and allowing normal sensation and biting force.
How long does it take?:
The procedure is more routine than you might think. An experienced dental professional can complete the process is one or two appointments, depending on your specific case. Once the procedure is complete, your repaired tooth should last as long as the rest of your teeth.
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Sometimes a tooth is so severely damaged that the only way to save it is with root canal treatment. There is no reason to turn and run if your dentist advises this procedure. The treatment has advanced to the point that it’s often compared to getting a filling. There are certain steps that will be performed as part of nearly every root canal procedure.
X-rays may be taken as part of the diagnosis process or to determine the extent of damage. Once the dentist is ready to begin treatment, a local anesthetic will be used to numb the area throughout the procedure.
A rubber dam will be placed around the tooth to separate the area from the rest of the mouth, and to keep it dry from saliva. The tooth will be opened, often using a small dental drill, to gain access to the pulp inside the tooth. The damaged pulp will be removed, and if there is an abscess it will be drained.
Cleaning and filling
After the pulp is eliminated, the dentist will thoroughly clean the area. The root canal will be widened if needed to create an adequate space for the filling. Depending on the extent of the damage, this step of the process can take up to several hours to complete or it can be spread over more than one visit. A temporary filling is sometimes used to seal the area between visits. If infection is present, the dentist may prescribe antibiotics.
The temporary filling will be removed and the permanent filling placed to fully seal the tooth and prevent future infection. If the tooth has been filled at the root, the risk of breaking is higher so a crown may be recommended for protection.
Crowns help prevent further damage or fracturing. If needed, the tooth will be reduced somewhat to allow space for the crown. It will be held in place securely with dental cement.
After root canal treatment, the tooth should survive for many years. The procedure may be repeated if re-infection occurs.
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If you have tooth pain or another issue, you might wonder what a visit to the dentist may reveal. You may need a root canal procedure. In order to properly evaluate your issue and to confirm the need for a procedure, a dentist will examine several factors. These typically include the symptoms you are experiencing, the signs observed, and any additional testing required to confirm an initial theory.
You may have noticed:
- You experience average to severe pain that lingers, during or immediately after drinking hot liquids or food, or very cold liquids or foods.
- You have pain, swelling, or sensitivity when biting or chewing on a certain tooth.
- Your tooth pain disrupts your life, preventing you from sleeping through the night or conducting your daily business without taking an over-the-counter pain reliever.
- You have a “bubble” on your gum, similar to a pimple. When irritated, it may release blood or pus that can smell or taste bad.
- You have pain that radiates out from one tooth to other areas of your head or jaw. For example, a tooth pain can lead to a pain behind the eye like a headache or to the ear, resulting in earache symptoms.
- You have a discolored tooth that is darker than the surrounding teeth. A grey tooth can indicate a “dead” tooth.
- You have a broken or cracked tooth with obvious signs of damage or decay.
Your dentist may have noticed:
- A tooth problem revealed by x-rays
- A recurring or persistent gum pimple (also called “fistulous tracts”)
- A tooth that has changed color
- X-ray examination – if x-rays did not reveal the problem, they can provide an extremely clear picture of tooth health
- Percussion testing – a gentle tapping on the teeth to evaluate pain response
- Thermal testing – a careful application of a hot or cold stimulus to evaluate sensitivity
Sometimes, teeth needing to undergo a root canal procedure have no symptoms discernible to the patient. It is important to visit your dentist regularly to ensure the proper diagnosis and treatment needed to maintain life-long oral health.
If you need root canal treatment in the Ottawa area, contact our office today to schedule a consultation.