Root Canal Therapy
What is a Root Canal?
Root canal therapy allows for the preservation of natural teeth. A root canal is needed when its dental pulp has been injured, infected or has become inflamed. Nothing is as good as a natural tooth. This is why at Apex Endodontics, we utilize each and every test to save a tooth. In order to understand root canal therapy, please review the anatomy of a tooth below.
Each tooth has two main parts: the crown (above the gums) and the root (underneath the gums that holds the tooth in its place in the bone). Also, a tooth consists of enamel (hard white outer shell), dentin (hard calcified tissue that protects the pulp), and the dental pulp. The dental pulp is found in the center of the tooth and comprised of living soft tissues (nerve, blood vessels, and lymphatics). The dental pulp is also called the root canal system and is located in both the crown and root of the tooth.
How to Treat a Root Canal
Root canal therapy is usually recommended by your local Apex dentist or oral surgeon. Root canal therapy involves locating the entire root canal system, cleaning, shaping, and sealing, to prevent recontamination. The reason we take such care and pride in this procedure is because of the tissues (nerve and blood tissues of the tooth) that are being treated. In most instances, a patient is faced with root canal therapy or extraction. In other words, root canal therapy is the last chance or hope for a tooth. Root canal therapy is the surgery and treatment of the “brain” (nerve) and “heart” (blood supply) of the tooth. The steps include:
- Numbing of the tooth – this includes pre-appointment medications or nitrous oxide (laughing gas) as needed. You should designate a family member or friend to take you home after the procedure. The most frequent question asked is, “Will it hurt?” We take great pride in trying to make the procedure as comfortable as possible and find a large number of our patients asleep during part of the procedure.
- Isolation of the tooth with a dental dam or “surgical drape” – the dam is the standard of care and always used. It helps the patient open wide; holds the tongue and cheeks aside; keeps our medicines and infectious wastes away from your mouth, stomach, and lungs; prevents contamination of the tooth from your saliva.
- A small opening (hole) from the top of your tooth is made to protect crowns and bridges – you will always need a new restoration (filling) after your appointment, and sometimes you will need a new crown and/or bridge.
- The pulp tissue is removed.
- The root canal system is cleaned, enlarged, and shaped – this is done so it can be sealed properly with a material called gutta-percha.
- In order to seal this space correctly, it must be dried – in about less than 5% of cases, the canal cannot be dried in one appointment, and a medicine will be placed for a period of one to two weeks.
- A temporary filling, either chosen by your dentist or endodontist, will be placed in the opening created.
- Within a few weeks, your regular Apex dentist will replace your temporary filling with a new permanent one.
After root canal therapy is my tooth dead?
No, because the surround structures (PDL, bone, and gum tissue) are alive. The image to the right is a tooth with root canal therapy completed.
Contact Apex Endodontics today to learn more about our root canal procedures and therapy.
After Your Root Canal Therapy Appointment
After root canal therapy has been completed on your tooth, the most important step after this procedure is to have a final restoration (filling or crown) by your dentist. The following list should help with any questions you may have after you leave our office:
- Your tooth, lips, cheeks, gums, and tongue will be numb for a few hours after your appointment. Be careful eating, chewing and drinking; you don’t want to injure yourself.
- Due to your treatment and your body’s healing, the tooth will be sore to touch and bite. We recommend you take ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) or naproxen (Aleve) before the numbness wears off, and again this evening or before bed. If the soreness does not subside in a few (three-four) days or it gets worse, please contact the office at 919-367-2875.
- Anytime you have been given a prescription, it is very important to take it as prescribed.
- Your temporary filling needs about 30 minutes to harden. Please avoid eating for 30 minutes after your appointment. Also, your temporary filling is designed to chip and flake off so it doesn’t transmit any forces on your tooth while it is healing. If your temporary comes completely out, please contact our office at 919-367-2875.
- Continue to brush and floss your teeth as usual.
- If you experience severe pain and/or swelling, please call our emergency number: 919-491-7195 (Dr. Burleson’s Cell Phone).