Root Canal Therapy

In the past, if you had a tooth with a diseased nerve, you’d probably lose that tooth. Now, with “root canal therapy,” your tooth can be saved. When a tooth is cracked or has a deep cavity, bacteria can enter the pulp tissue and germs can cause an infection inside the tooth. If left untreated, an abscess may form. If the infected tissue is not removed, pain and swelling can result. This can injure your jawbones and be harmful to your overall health.

Root canal therapy involves one to three visits. During treatment, your general dentist or endodontist removes the affected tissue. Next, the interior of the tooth will be cleaned and sealed. Finally, the tooth is filled with a dental composite. If your tooth has extensive decay, your dentist may suggest placing a crown to strengthen and protect the tooth from breaking. As long as you continue to care for your teeth and gums with regular brushing, flossing, and checkups, your restored tooth can last a lifetime.

A: Tooth decay can progress down into the pulp. When this happens, the pulp can become infected. Infection of the pulp can be very painful and can also deteriorate into an abscessed tooth when infection and swelling develops in the tissues around or beneath the tooth. When the pulp becomes infected or the tooth becomes abscessed, it is necessary to perform a root canal.

A: When the pulp becomes infected due to a deep cavity or fracture, bacteria can seep in. When there has been an injury due to trauma, the pulp can die. Damaged or dead pulp causes increased blood flow, pressure, and cellular activity. Pain in the tooth is commonly felt when biting down or chewing, and eating or drinking hot and/or cold foods and beverages.

A: The tooth will not heal by itself. Without treatment, the infection will spread. The bone around the tooth will begin to degenerate, and the tooth may fall out. Pain usually worsens until one is forced to seek emergency dental attention. The only alternative is extraction of the tooth, which can cause the surrounding teeth to shift, resulting in a bad bite. Though an extraction is cheaper, the space left behind will require an implant or a bridge, which can be more expensive than root canal therapy. If you have the choice, it’s always best to keep your original teeth.

A: More than 95 percent of root canal therapies are successful. However, sometimes a case needs to be redone due to diseased canal offshoots that went undetected, or the fracturing of the canal filling. More commonly, a root canal therapy will fail altogether, marked by the return of pain.

A: Once root canal therapy is completed, the endodonist will refer the patient back to our office for the permanent restoration on the tooth. A temporary filling was placed immediately following the root canal therapy and will need to be replaced with a permanent filling or crown and build up. A crown will be necessary on all posterior teeth to properly protect the root canal- treated tooth from fracturing. Front teeth can typically be restored with a filling, however a crown may be necessary in some cases. Your dentist will determine the best choice for your individual needs.

A: Your restored tooth could last a lifetime, if you continue to care for your teeth and gums. However, regular checkups are necessary. As long as the root(s) of a treated tooth are nourished by the tissues around it, your tooth will remain healthy.

Root Canal Illustration
  • First, an opening is made through the crown of the tooth.
  • An opening is made through the crown of the tooth into the pulp chamber.
  • The pulp is then removed.
  • The root canal(s) is cleaned and shaped to a form that can be filled.
  • The pulp is removed, and the root canals are cleaned, enlarged and shaped.
  • Medications may be put in the pulp chamber and root canal(s) to help get rid of germs and prevent infection.
  • A temporary filling will be placed in the crown opening to protect the tooth between dental visits. Your dentist may leave the tooth open for a few days to drain. You might also be given medicine to help control infection that may have spread beyond the tooth.
  • The pulp chamber and root canals are filled and sealed.
  • The temporary filling is removed and the pulp chamber and root canal(s) are cleaned and filled.
  • In the final step, a gold or porcelain crown is usually placed over the tooth.
  • The crown of the tooth is then restored.

An infected tooth is a serious condition and must be treated promptly to avoid tooth loss and the spreading of infection to other teeth. If you are concerned about an infected or abscessed tooth, we urge you to call Hohenstein & Schwartz promptly.