Root Canal Treatment
To most people, the phrase “getting a root canal” implies a painful, unpleasant procedure. In fact, due to advances in dental technology and anesthesia, root canals are as easy and painless as getting a filling. A root canal is a procedure that repairs a badly decayed or infected tooth, restoring it to full function. Consider a root canal as a much less expensive alternative to implants or dentures.
What is a root canal?
The term “root canal” refers to the natural hollow at the center of the tooth. Teeth consist of three layers:
- An outer layer of enamel, which is the tooth’s visible surface
- A middle layer of dentin
- The root canal, which includes the tooth’s pulp and nerve
A root canal procedure is necessary when this innermost layer of pulp has been exposed to the outside. Exposed pulp quickly becomes infected, and multiplying bacteria both accelerate tooth decay and can lead to an abscess, a pus-filled cavity that expands from the tooth’s roots. There are many ways a tooth’s pulp can be exposed, including:
- Deep decay, such as unaddressed cavities
- Repeated dental work on the same tooth
- Cracks or chips in the tooth
- Blunt trauma to the face
What happens in a root canal procedure?
Root canals are performed by either a dentist or endodontist, a specialist in the care of tooth pulp. The choice depends on the difficulty of the procedure, and your dentist’s recommendation. Your dentist may wish to refer you to a specialist with the most experience performing the procedure.
During your evaluation, we take X-rays to assess the amount of damage to the root canal and search for signs of infection. When you return for the procedure, we use local anesthesia on the targeted tooth. Often, anesthesia is unnecessary since the tooth’s nerve is already dead, but your dentist can still use it to make you feel more relaxed.
The dentist or endodontist drills an access hole into the tooth and removes the exposed pulp, along with any bacteria, decayed tissue, or other debris that has accumulated. Next, your provider will decide whether to seal the tooth immediately or wait a week. In the latter case, the tooth is sealed with a temporary filling, then permanently at the follow-up appointment. Finally, your dentist will assess if any further restoration on the damaged tooth is needed. Teeth that require root canals often have other signs of decay, so your dentist may recommend placing a crown to protect it. The result of this procedure will be a repaired tooth, restored to normal function.
Feel free to contact Atlantic Family Dentistry at (973) 450-4400 for further information on the root canal procedure. If your teeth need restoration and repair, don’t wait to get them the care they deserve.