Do you have a tooth that’s been bothering you for a while? Maybe a toothache that comes and goes? Dental pain is sometimes the result of a deep crack or damaged dental work, but most toothaches are caused by tooth decay. When your tooth first develops a cavity, you won’t feel anything, though you might see a spot on the tooth if you look closely. However, as a cavity gets deeper, you will start to feel pain as the infection reaches the inner portion of the tooth. At that point, there’s really only one way to stop the decay and repair the tooth: root canal therapy.
Many people cringe when they hear “root canal” but the truth is that root canal treatments end tooth pain and save teeth. If decay is allowed to advance without restorative treatment, it may eventually get to the point in which there isn’t enough tooth left to save. In those cases, the tooth must be extracted. No one wants to lose a tooth, so root canals are most certainly a good thing!
What is a Root Canal?
In order to understand what a root canal is, you have to understand the anatomy of your tooth. The hard, white part of the tooth that you can see above the gum line is called the enamel. Below the enamel is a layer of dentin, which is softer, darker, and slightly sensitive. The innermost part of the tooth is what’s called the pulp chamber. This is where the living parts of the tooth are found. This includes blood vessels, nerve endings, and connective tissues.
When a cavity destroys only tooth enamel or dentin, we can fix the tooth with a filling. If the cavity reaches the pulp chamber, a root canal becomes necessary. Why is this? Cavities are caused by bacteria, which excrete acids that dissolve tooth enamel. If bacteria have reached the inside of the tooth, there is a risk of infection spreading to the rest of the body. The only way to heal the tooth and protect your health is to remove all the tissues from inside the pulp chamber and fill it with a replacement. This involves cleaning and smoothing the inside of the tooth, including all the small canals that extend from the roots of the tooth (hence the term root canal). Root canals are also sometimes referred to as endodontic therapy because they treat the inside (endo) of the tooth (dontic).
Root Canals are Nothing to Fear!
If a root canal sounds scary, rest assured that we always use anesthetics to ensure patients feel no sensitivity during treatment. We have a no-pain policy at Precision Dentistry, and Dr. Gol will not get started until we’re certain you have been adequately numbed. Root canals may also have a bad reputation because they take significantly longer than typical fillings—there’s no getting around that. However, most patients agree that a longer appointment is well worth their time if it means that they get to keep their teeth!
What to Expect During Root Canal Therapy
If you’ve ever had a filling, root canal therapy is similar to that but involves a few extra steps. When you come in for your appointment, we will examine the tooth and take x-rays to determine the depth and location of the cavity. This helps us plan the procedure and make sure we have the right tools to get started.
A root canal treatment involves the following steps.
- An anesthetic injection to block the nerve, (similar to Novocain).
- Treating the tooth, to prepare it for the root canal. This involves removing all the decayed tooth matter and bacteria from the cavity.
- Removing the tissues from inside the pulp chamber.
- Disinfecting and smoothing the inside surfaces of the tooth, to ensure all traces of bacteria are removed.
- Filling the tooth with dental cement and a rubbery substance called gutta-percha. (This ensures the tooth feels and weighs the same as it did before.)
- Finishing the restoration with a filling or a dental crown.
Depending on how much enamel you have lost from the tooth, we may use either a filling or a crown to complete the restoration. Crowns are tooth-shaped caps that encircle and protect a tooth. If you need a crown, we will take a dental impression and give you a temporary crown while the permanent crown is being made. This usually takes a couple of weeks, since the crown must be fabricated in a dental laboratory.
Depending on the details of your case, your root canal treatment may be completed in one or two appointments. When you come to Precision Dentistry for your initial consultation, we will examine your tooth and give you a treatment plan to explain what you can expect in terms of process, cost, and insurance coverage. If you have any questions before, during, or after your root canal, ask Dr. Gol or a member of our staff.
The Best Part of a Root Canal
The best part of a root canal is the fact that once your tooth has been restored, the pain will come to an end. The nerve endings are removed during the process, so it should never cause a toothache again. You may feel some soreness in your jaw from holding your mouth open for a long time, but the toothache that brought you to us should be gone. Best of all, the tooth will function normally from now on, and continue to serve you well for many years to come.
If you have a toothache that’s been bothering you for a while, call our Columbia MD dental office today. You may need a root canal to preserve the tooth. The sooner you call, the greater the possibility we’ll be able to restore your tooth with root canal therapy. Call us today at 410-884-0262 to make an appointment.