Root canals are used to treat inflammation and infections of the pulp without removing the actual tooth. It is important to understand that a root canal will not save your tooth, however, it will allow you to keep it.
If left untreated, infections can cause further damage to your tooth and surrounding tissues, which may result in the tooth’s removal.
What exactly are root canals?
To understand how the root canal treatment works, it is helpful to understand what root canals are.
Teeth are made up of hard and soft parts. The hard, outermost layer is called the enamel (that is the part that is visible). Inside is another hard layer, the dentin, that give 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 is where the nerves and blood vessels are. It stretches from the center of the tooth, down to the roots and jawbone. A tooth can have anywhere between 1-4 individual roots, with molars having more.
How does the root canal procedure work?
To complete a root canal therapy, you will need more than one dental visit (typically 2-3). The procedure itself consists of several steps:
- First, the dentist examines your mouth and takes X-rays of your teeth to determine the depth of your roots. Then, the tooth is numbed so you can feel comfortable and at ease. A dental dam (a flexible sheet of protective material) is stretched over your mouth to keep it dry (it protects your teeth from bacteria in your saliva).
- Next, your dentist or endodontist will make an opening (drill a hole) in the tooth’s crown to get to the core (pulp chamber). Any existing decay is removed. The tooth is flushed out, cleaned and dried.
- After that, the pulp is removed, which leaves the tooth hollow. Each root canal is disinfected, shaped, and cleaned.
- Medicine may be placed in the pulp chamber and root canals to help with the infection.
- Then, the roots are 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 spread beyond the roots.
- Finally, your dentist will remove the temporary filling and put in a permanent restoration like an artificial crown. That will strengthen the tooth, restore its function and greatly improve the way it looks. Sometimes, there may not be enough support for a crown. In that case, a post may be placed inside the tooth to help support the crown.
The root canal procedure keeps the tooth safe from bacteria and significantly reduces its chances of breaking.
It is crucial to follow your dentist’ instructions and attend all follow-up appointments.
Who needs a root canal?
Generally speaking, when teeth have severe decay, cavities or cracks, or when they are painful, inflamed or infected, a root canal may be necessary. Your dentist will perform an oral examination to find out exactly what the problem is and how it can be treated.
Some symptoms of a tooth infection include sensitivity to pressure and temperature, swollen lymph nodes, severe pain when chewing, tender or darkening gums, chips/cracks in the teeth, fever and abscesses (or foul-tasting liquid when the abscess drains).
Frequently Asked Questions about Root Canal Cincinnati, Ohio [OH]
What can I do to ease my pain before the root canal treatment?
To ease your pain before the treatment, you can take OTC pain killers, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen. If pain is severe, you may consider alternating the two, for example – take acetaminophen, then ibuprofen 3-4 hours later, then acetaminophen again after another 3-4 hours. This will ensure effective tooth pain relief.
Does the root canal treatment hurt?
Thanks to the advances in medicine, the procedure is not painful. You will receive a numbing agent before the start of the procedure. Whatever discomfort you may feel afterwards can be treated with over-the-counter medications.
How durable are root canal treatments?
A tooth with a root canal filling can last for many years if it is properly maintained. It can become decayed or fractured. The gums can become diseased. Therefore, it is important to keep your dental cleaning appointments and get regular check-ups to keep your mouth healthy.
Are root canals better than teeth extractions?
Root canals allow the patients to keep and protect their natural teeth. Maintaining your natural teeth is always the best option, since nothing will feel and look as good as your original teeth.
Teeth extractions may be cheaper, but they are costly in terms of functionality, aesthetics and overall health of your smile. Extracted teeth need to be replaced eventually- with a dental bridge, dentures, or an implant. These restorations can be much more expensive, and require more time, energy, and multiple treatments to complete.
Whenever possible, the first course of treatment should always be a root canal therapy.
How can I avoid having a root canal?
To avoid the root canal procedure, make sure to keep your teeth healthy. Brush them at least twice a day, floss every day and maintain a balanced diet. Visit your dentist at least twice a year to get a cleaning and an oral exam. If you start experiencing pain, or notice swelling, don’t wait to visit your dentist. The sooner the problem is detected, the better your chances of saving your tooth and avoiding a root canal treatment.