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Root canal treatment, also known as endodontic therapy, is extremely effective in saving badly damaged or infected teeth from extraction. It is also a misunderstood treatment, as some people are concerned they will have root canal pain when receiving this therapy when the opposite is true. Instead, a root canal procedure will relieve pain.
Root canal therapy is a procedure that removes inflamed and infected tissue from the innermost part of the tooth, called the dental pulp, right in the center. The dental pulp contains nerves, connective tissue, and blood vessels that help support and nourish the tooth while it grows and develops. An adult tooth can survive perfectly well without the dental pulp.
The dental pulp can become infected and inflamed due to deep decay, trauma, or if a tooth has received repeated dental procedures close to the dental pulp, resulting in it becoming inflamed and swollen. During a root canal procedure, the damaged pulp is removed, including the tissues extending into the tooth roots, called the root canals.
Once removed, the empty pulp chamber and root canals are cleaned and disinfected before they are filled permanently with a biocompatible material. The tooth is then restored, usually with a dental crown that covers it completely and protects it from further damage and infection. Normally, a tooth that requires root canal therapy will have lost much of its original structure, so placing an ordinary filling wouldn’t be strong enough to restore it successfully.
You may need a root canal procedure if you have a deep cavity in a tooth that hasn’t been filled or where a filling has failed. In this case, infectious bacteria can penetrate the tooth, reaching the dental pulp, and causing infection in the pulp and the root canals.
Treatment can also be necessary if you have taken a blow to the mouth that has damaged the dental pulp and caused it to become inflamed and swollen, causing pressure within the tooth. Several other symptoms, including the following, can indicate your tooth is infected or inflamed.
Not everyone with these symptoms will need root canal therapy, but it is important to seek professional dental care quickly if you have tooth or dental pain. The sooner we can diagnose and treat the problem, the better the outcome, and it’s more likely that we can save an infected tooth from extraction.
It is especially important to come and see us if you have other signs like facial swelling, a fever, and a feeling of being unwell, as this could indicate the infection has spread beyond your tooth and requires emergency dental care. Please don’t delay; in rare cases, this can become life-threatening.
Initially, when you visit Century Dental, our dentist will carefully assess the affected tooth and will want to take dental x-rays. The x-rays help us evaluate the extent of the infection and identify the number of tooth roots and their shape and size. These can vary from one tooth to another; for example, a front tooth will only have one root, whereas a larger molar can have several teeth roots, which can be significantly curved. Being able to visualize these tooth roots helps ensure that we can clean the root canals out thoroughly.
The next stage is to numb the affected tooth with a local anesthetic, ensuring the procedure is pain-free. You may feel a small pinch when we initially inject the anesthetic, but we can apply a numbing gel to the gum to ensure minimal discomfort. We must keep the tooth dry while we work on it, which is achieved using suction or by placing a dental dam, a thin piece of rubber, over the tooth to isolate it.
We can then begin the procedure by making a small hole in the tooth’s crown to reach the infected dental pulp and remove it. Special files are used to clean out the empty pulp chamber and the root canals in your tooth roots to ensure we eliminate all remaining tissues. It is an intricate procedure, so it can take a while to complete, but you can rest assured you won’t feel anything due to the local anesthetic.
Once we have cleaned and shaped the root canals and pulp chamber, they are irrigated and disinfected thoroughly. At this stage, we may place antibiotics into the empty pulp chamber to help get rid of a more severe tooth infection. The tooth is then sealed with a temporary filling and left to settle down for a week or two so we can ensure the infection is eliminated. We might also prescribe antibiotics to take at home if the infection is severe.
During your second visit to our dental office, we can place a permanent filling made from gutta-percha and can prepare your tooth for fitting a dental crown. If you have lost a significant part of your natural tooth, we may also want to fit a small post inside the tooth, providing extra strength so the final restoration feels more stable. Once the crown is ready, you can return to have it fitted and bonded permanently in place. The result should be a tooth that feels entirely comfortable and pain-free, which looks good, and ensures you can bite and chew normally.
You will probably need several appointments to complete this treatment. Initially, we need to diagnose the problem and arrange root canal therapy to help relieve the pain and discomfort quickly. Once this stage is complete, we must allow some time for the tooth to settle down before you return to our dental office so we can take a dental impression to fabricate the crown. When the crown is ready, you can return to have it fitted in place.
The time needed for root canal therapy can vary depending on the tooth requiring treatment. If you need a front tooth treated with only a single root, treatment will be quicker, whereas a larger back tooth with several roots will take longer. Generally, you can expect an appointment to last from an hour to an hour and a half. We can provide you with a more accurate time once we assess your tooth.
Root canal cost can vary according to the tooth treated, as you can expect a tooth with multiple tooth roots to cost more than treating a front tooth with just a single tooth root. However, if you have dental insurance, root canal therapy is almost certainly covered as it is an essential restorative treatment.
You should be able to return to everyday activities immediately after your treatment. Your mouth will be numb for several hours while treatment is complete, so you must avoid very hot foods that could burn your mouth. Once the anesthetic wears off, you may experience mild tooth sensitivity and discomfort for several days until the tooth settles down. You shouldn’t experience any pain after root canal treatment, and it will get rid of severe toothache due to infection.
A tooth that has received this therapy can last for years or even for life problem-free. However, the infection can reoccur, usually right at the tip of the tooth root. If this happens, we can reassess the tooth to see if root canal retreatment is possible. Sometimes retreating a tooth is very successful, but other times the outcome might be less certain.
We can discuss all options with you, including the risks and benefits. Retreating a tooth can be expensive. If we feel there is a low chance of successful retreatment, we may recommend you have the tooth removed and instead spend the money on replacing it. We only ever suggest removing a natural tooth if there is a very low chance that it can be saved.
Generally, root canal treatment is a very successful procedure that helps prevent the removal of thousands of teeth yearly. Treatment is tried and tested, and recovery should be smooth and comfortable. Please don’t delay in seeking professional dental care for any tooth pain. We can provide prompt treatment to relieve discomfort and hopefully save your natural tooth.
Century Medical and Dental Center is an accredited healthcare facility in NY that operates in accordance with Article 28, a public health law. This law regulates and recognizes accreditation for public healthcare facilities, ensuring they are licensed and operated correctly. By undergoing the Article 28 process and achieving accreditation, Century Medical and Dental Center demonstrates its commitment to meeting the highest standards of care.
As a multidisciplinary medical center, we have highly qualified doctors, nurses, and support staff who are working hard to provide the best medical care to patients in Midtown Manhattan, NY, Downtown Brooklyn, NY, including Brooklyn Heights, Dumbo, Prospect Heights, Park Slope, Clinton Hill, Boerum Hill, Red Hook, and Bedford-Stuyvesant.