Root canals are used to treat this condition while allowing you to keep the tooth. It is important to understand that a root canal will not permanently save your tooth, however, it will allow you to avoid an extraction or replacement. 

Deferring help or ignoring this ailment can not only cause further damage to your tooth and surrounding tissues which would result in the tooth’s removal, it could also cause damage to neighboring teeth and cause other severe complications. 

What exactly are root canals? 

Teeth are made up of hard and soft parts. The hard, outermost layer is called the enamel (what we see). Inside is another hard layer called the dentin.  This gives the tooth its structure. Cementum is the third hard layer, below the gums, that covers the roots of the tooth. 

The inside part of the tooth is made up of a soft tissue that is called the pulp. This area is where the nerves and blood vessels are located. It stretches from the center of the tooth, down to the roots and jawbone. A tooth may have anywhere between 1-4 individual roots. Molars might have even more. 

How does the root canal procedure work? 

Root canal therapy can rarely be completed in one visit.  More often, two or three sessions are required. It is a multi-step process: 

  1. First, your dentist will commence with a thorough examination of your mouth, including X-rays of your teeth to ascertain the depth of your roots. Then, the tooth is numbed so you can feel comfortable and at ease. A dental dam (an elastic sheet of protective material) is stretched over your mouth to keep it dry (it shields your teeth from bacteria in your saliva). 
  2. Next, your dentist or endodontist will make an opening, using a drill, in the tooth’s crown to get to the core (pulp chamber). Any existing decay is eliminated. The tooth is flushed out, cleaned and dried. 
  3. Following that, the pulp is removed, leaving the tooth hollow. Each root canal is disinfected, shaped, and cleaned. 
  4. Medicine may be applied within the pulp chamber and root canals to help with the infection. 
  5. Continuing the procedure, the roots are then filled with a sealer to support the canals. To prevent an infection, a temporary filling is placed in your tooth. Antibiotics may be prescribed if the infection has spread beyond the roots. 
  6. Lastly, your dentist will remove the temporary filling and put in a permanent restoration like an artificial crown. The crown will strengthen the tooth, restore its function, and greatly improve the way it looks. Occasionally, a crown will not have enough support within the tooth. In that case, a post may be placed inside to help support the crown. 

The ultimate goal of a root canal is to keep your tooth safe from further bacterial infections and lower the odds of it breaking in the future. 

It is especially important to follow your dentist’s follow-up care instructions and attend all supplemental appointments. 

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Who needs a root canal? 

If your teeth have severe decay, cavities, or cracks; if they are painful, inflamed, or infected, you may be a candidate for a root canal. Your dentist will perform an oral examination to find out to find out for sure and if the treatment is necessary. 

Indicators of a tooth infection include adverse reaction to pressure and temperature, swollen lymph nodes, acute pain when chewing, tender or darkening gums, chips or cracks in the teeth, fever, and abscesses (or foul-tasting liquid when the abscess drains). 


What can I do to ease my pain before the root canal treatment?

Until you have your treatment scheduled, OTC pain killers can help relieve tooth pain.  Acetaminophen or Ibuprofen both work.  Check with your primary doctor if one is better for you.  Otherwise, you can rotate the two every three to four hours or as necessary.

Does the root canal treatment hurt?  

Improvement in dentistry practices have made this procedure less painful than previously, and not as bad as you may imagine.  A numbing agent will alleviate discomfort during the procedure and over-the-counter meds can help with any post-op pain.  

Frequently Asked Questions about Root Canal Therapy Anderson, Indiana [IN]

How durable are root canal treatments? 

Root canals can last a long time (many years) if proper dental hygiene is practiced afterwards.  Continue getting your check-ups and cleanings to preserve the effects as long as possible.  Failure to do so can cause the tooth to become decayed or break.  Gum disease is also a possibility.  Brush, floss, and rinse every day!

Are root canals better than teeth extractions? 

Whenever possible, the first course of treatment should always be a root canal therapy. Root canals are preferable because you get to keep your natural teeth.  No implant will replicate the feel and look of your own teeth. While extractions may be cheaper, their functionality and aesthetics are not often worth it.   Extractions eventually require a bridge, dentures, or implants which are more expensive (in both time and money) than the original root canal would be. 

How can I avoid having a root canal?  

There’s no sure-fire way, but the common refrains you hear from every dentist apply.  Brush twice a day, floss, and avoid excessive sugars and acids in your foods.  See your dentist twice a year and keep al cleaning and exam appointments.  Don’t put off investigating pain or swelling.  Pain is an indicator of a problem and should be dealt with promptly.  Early detection of issues can head off needing a root canal later. 

Anderson, IN

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