Root canal therapy, or endodontic therapy, is a treatment that aims to remove the tooth nerve while allowing you to keep the tooth itself. A root canal treatment is indicated whenever bacteria manage to penetrate past the outer tooth layer and enter the tooth nerve. Once tooth decay enters your nerve, the tooth is considered infected. Unfortunately, a simple filling or crown is no longer an option. To remove the infection and alleviate the pain, your dentist must perform a root canal treatment. At this point, the only alternative to a root canal treatment would be to extract and remove the tooth altogether. Receiving a root canal allows you to keep your tooth while eliminating pain and infection at the same time.
The majority of root canal treatments result from infected teeth due to untreated cavities or some sort of trauma. Yet not all root canal teeth are painful in advance. For instance, long-standing infections or teeth with severely clogged nerve canals (common in elderly) present with minimal or even no pain. These teeth will still require a root canal if they display symptoms of infection, such as an abscess or decay into the nerve structure. Sometimes a root canal is needed to repair cracked teeth where the fracture has reached into your tooth nerve.
Elective root canal treatment may be indicated when tooth decay is very close to the nerve. Some rare individuals have a history of extremely sensitive teeth and choose to receive a root canal prior to every crown they need. Root canal treatment may also be indicated when your dentist is correcting your bite with veneers. Occasionally a tooth presents itself with so much misalignment that placing a veneer will encroach on the tooth nerve. An elective root canal is thus indicated. As you can see, there are many indications for performing root canal treatments on teeth and not all are associated with pain or infection.
First and foremost, be aware that root canal treatment does take a while to complete. Bring headphones if you prefer to listen to music and plan on spending an hour or two with us. Your dentist will ensure that you are extremely numb prior to starting treatment. Next, your dentist or endodontist will slowly remove the disinfected tooth nerve using metal wires known as files. After thoroughly cleaning out the nerves, he or she will place a sterile filling material into the nerves. This material, known as Gutta Percha, helps seal off the emptied nerve canal to prevent future bacterial re-infiltration. In summary, a root canal is essentially a filling for your tooth nerve.
Root canal treatment is a great way to save infected teeth without having to remove them. It is usually recommended to try and save your own tooth instead of removing and replacing it with a fake prosthesis. A successful root canal has a good chance of lasting you a lifetime. There are occasions where a dental implant is better than a root canal. For instance, if there is insufficient tooth structure left to restore your tooth, a dental implant is preferred. If you have poor hygiene combined with advanced periodontal disease, a root canal may not be worth it and dental implant is the way to go. Ultimately, only your dentist can determine if a root canal or dental implant is the better treatment for you. Schedule a consultation with Dr. Jazayeri to discuss the pros and cons of root canal treatment to decide if you’re a good candidate for root canal treatment.