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Root Canal Procedures
Root canal procedures or "root canals" have long stood as the primary deterant for seeking regular dental care in children and adults alike. Just a mention of the name conjures thoughts of scary (though inaccurate) stories and movies. The reality however, is much less exciting. The horror stories of the past have become just that, stories. In recent years, the advances in anesthetic technology has made all but the most extreme cases nothing more than a couple of boring appointments. There is a lot of misinformation about what a "root canal" actually is which contributes to the bad aura around this commonplace procedure.
What is a "Root Canal?"
Located in the root of every tooth is one or more canals that provide a space for the nerve of the tooth. The root canal procedure is when this canal space is cleaned and filled to keep bacteria from finding shelter inside the tooth.
Why do I need a Root Canal procedure?
There are a couple of circumstances in which a root canal procedure becomes necessary:
When the nerve of a tooth becomes so inflamed that it can no longer repair itself.
When the nerve of the tooth has already died and bacteria has invaded the tooth beginning an infectious process.
A tooth can become irreversibly inflamed for numerous reasons but most commonly as a result of deep cavities and cracks. As bacteria invades near the nerve, it becomes inflamed. With increased inflammation, the nerve has a decreased ability to repair itself. Symptoms of an unrepairable nerve may include spontaneous sharp pain, temperature (hot or cold) sensitivity that lingers, and sometimes constant, uncontrolled pain.
A nerve that remains irreversibly inflammed will eventually die and bacteria then infiltrates the tooth beginning an infectious process. The tooth at this time is no longer sensitive to hot or cold. Pain can often come and go and is dull, aching, or throbbing in nature. It may be uncomfortable to chew on the tooth and in some cases results in an abscess (pocket of infection).
Does the root of the tooth get removed during a Root Canal procedure?
No. The tooth is opened at the biting surface to reveal the openings of the canals. Once these canals have been accessed, the canals are enlarged, top to bottom, with a series of files that increase in diameter. This both removes tooth structure likely to have been infiltrated with bacteria and creates space for the cleaning liquid and medication if needed.
Once the tooth has been thoroughly cleaned out, the canal space is sealed with a rubber material so it cannot be further infiltrated by bacteria. With the canal sealed, it is important that the hole created at the biting surface be sealed as quickly as possible.
Why do I need a crown after the Root Canal procedure?
After making a large hole in the center of the tooth, the strength and stability of the tooth is weakened, thus increasing the risk of fracture. In order to support the remaining tooth structure, a crown is placed over the tooth to prevent it from breaking in such a way that it can no longer be repaired.
Often times a front tooth can be left without a crown because the size of the access hole relative to the remaining tooth structure is much smaller, thus maintaining the integrity of the tooth. In most cases, the chewing force on the front teeth is much less than the back teeth resulting in fewer fractures and possibly eliminating the need for a crown.
Will you perform my Root Canal procedure or will I have to go somewhere else?
In many cases, the root canal procedure can be done in our office. However, depending on the individual case, it may be necessary to see a specialist to ensure the best possible care. Specialists called Endodontists, not only have specific equipment to help them handle difficult cases but also have a higher level of expertise regarding these paticular procedures. Working together with the specialists guarantees the root canal procedure achieves the highest level of success.