If you are experiencing pain and/or abnormal sensitivity, we may determine that you need a root canal on a specific tooth. Some teeth requiring root canal therapy may be asymptomatic (no pain), but in most cases, there is usually pain or some discomfort (such as a dull ache) associated with the tooth. Also, if you notice any swelling or an abscess in your mouth, please call the office as soon as possible to have it evaluated.
Root canals are usually recommended when the nerve inside the root of the tooth is compromised. If the nerve is dying, or if the nerve is dead, root canal therapy can be done as a last effort to save the tooth. Some reasons for this occurring include large decay that extends to the pulp of the tooth, large fractures that affect the nerve as well as trauma to the tooth/nerve. Once the nerve has died, other more serious problems can arise such as dental abscesses/infections. It is important not to ignore a dead nerve, despite the fact there may be little to no pain.
If we suspect that you need a root canal, we will perform pulp tests to confirm the diagnosis, as well as take a radiograph (x-ray). There are several factors that can influence the outcome/success of a root canal, so we will take all factors into consideration. You will always be presented with different options when determining the best course of treatment.
Root Canal Process
After we have concluded that you absolutely need the root canal on the tooth, an appointment will be scheduled. During that appointment, the tooth will be numbed with local anesthetic so you will not feel anything during the procedure. After drilling a small hole to locate the pulp chamber, we locate the nerve canals, in order to clean them out. It is also important to make sure there are no severe fractures/cracks located within the tooth which may influence the outcome of the procedure. After cleaning and shaping the canals, they are sealed with a rubber filling material and cement. We will then place a build-up to “rebuild” the tooth and seal the opening which was created to access the nerve.
Important: If the root canal was performed on a posterior (back) tooth, you MUST have a crown placed over the tooth, to protect it. A root canal weakens a tooth, so any heavy forces can fracture the tooth and/or root. Therefore, it is important to cover the posterior tooth with a crown to give it a favorable long term prognosis. On some occasions, a crown may be needed for an anterior (front) tooth, depending on the bite or how much healthy tooth structure remains.
It is important to realize that a root canal is a last ditch effort to save a tooth. On average, root canals are 90% successful.
After a root canal is performed, there can be some soreness associated with the tooth as it heals. This is temporary and usually resolves within a couple days. Depending on the condition of the tooth/nerve prior to the root canal, our doctors will give you a good idea of what to expect for the few days after the root canal. If we feel that pain medication or antibiotics are needed, they will be prescribed.