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Do I Need A Root Canal?

The root canal of your tooth is the part of the pulp cavity lying in the root within the tooth. Root canal therapy is the dental process or operation of saving a tooth by removing the contents of its root canal and filling the cavity with a protective substance. According to the American Association of Endodontists, there are more than 15 million root canals performed each year. Treatment is typically a very straightforward procedure that relieves dental pain with the goal of saving the tooth. Below we will explore common causes for a root canal, signs & symptoms, and what to expect during the procedure if one becomes necessary.

Common Causes for a Root Canal

root canal therapy diagram

Each tooth is composed of three distinct layers: the outer enamel, the porous detin, and the inner pulp. The job of the inner pulp is to keep the tooth healthy and hydrated. The most common cause of root canal issues stem from untreated cavities. A cavity is when the hard surface of the tooth is permanently damaged and develops into tiny holes. A cavity can also be referred to as tooth decay and if left untreated, they expose the inner parts of the tooth, including the inner pulp, to the bacteria in your mouth or even allow the decay to descend into the inner layers of the tooth causing severe damage. This causes infection, thus leads to the need for root canal treatment to avoid further serious health risks such as abscessed gums and infection spread to other surrounding oral structures. Other common causes for root canal treatment include but are not limited to: 

-A Faulty crown
-A crack or chip in the tooth
-Repeated dental procedures done on a tooth.

Signs & Symptoms Root Canal Treatment is Necessary

When the inner pulp of the tooth becomes infected, it typically causes moderate to severe sensitivity and pain that can only be effectively alleviated by removing the damaged pulp. Signs you may need to schedule a trip to your local dental office for a root canal include but are not limited to: 

-Constant toothache
-Deep discoloration of a tooth
-Sensitivity to hot and cold
-Pain when chewing
-Swelling in the gums
-A chipped or cracked tooth
-Visible tooth decay

If you are in a great deal of pain, an emergency root canal may be necessary.

What to expect

Root canals have developed a bad reputation over the years but are an amazing resource to saving your tooth and removing the source of often severe tooth pain. The process is a bit complex to perform and will take a little longer than a typical dental visit (An average of 60 – 90 minutes) but is overall a very straightforward procedure. Your local dentist will offer options for pain including local anesthesia to numb the affected area and nitrous oxide sedation to help you feel calm. If you are particularly anxious about the dentist, do not hesitate to inform your dentist or dental assistant as there are other methods available such as oral sedation that are available to you. 

The procedure itself includes your dentist making an opening in the crown of the tooth and cleaning the pulp from the pulp chamber and root canals and shaping the space for filling. After the space is cleaned and shaped, your dentist will use a biocompatible material, typically a rubber-like material, placed with adhesive cement to fill and seal the root canal space. In most cases, a temporary filling is placed where the opening is made and a follow up visit is required to place a crown or other restoration on the tooth to protect and fully restore it to full function.

As always, it is important to note that the best treatment options are ones that do not become necessary! Taking proper preventative action such as careful at home dental hygiene and regular dental visits for checkups and cleanings will help you avoid the need for root canal therapy. If you do find yourself experiencing any of the signs and symptoms mentioned in this article, do not hesitate to contact Maestri Family Dentistry for an appointment. If root canal therapy is indeed necessary, rest assured that you will be in skilled, caring hands at Dr. Gina Liggio Maestri, DDS.

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