Perhaps the most misunderstood and misrepresented treatment that dentists do for their patients is the procedure of root canal. No other procedure conjures images of pain and suffering. In fact, root canal treatment or endodontic therapy is most often performed to get patients out of pain and is itself an almost painless procedure in the right hands.
At my Plantation dental office, one of the most popular question I get asked is: What is root canal and why do I need one? The usual cause of the need for a root canal is due to either an inflamed nerve or infected tooth. The source of infection can be from decay and the subsequent bacteria that accompany it into the nerve or pulp of the tooth. Root canals may be needed as a result of trauma to a tooth or as a result of a periodontal infection traveling from the gum into the jaw bone and the tooth. The cause is usually not as important as the treatment, which is usually the same; endodontic therapy. The goal of which is to relieve the patient’s pain. Cardinal signs that you may need a root canal are extreme and lingering sensitivity to cold, hot (often relieved by cold), swelling, and puss discharges in and around the tooth and gum as well as tenderness to biting or pressure.
Root canal therapy dates back thousands of years and was probably invented by both the Egyptians and ancient Chinese. The goal is to remove the nerve inside the tooth or “extirpate” the pulpal tissue. Each tooth has a number of canal pulpal pathways and vary depending on the tooth and is individual anatomy. These must be located and cleaned out of infected or inflamed tissue by the dentist. Once the canal is cleaned, it is filled or “obturated” with a rubber-like material called gutta-percha. This material is gently heated and squashed into the canal to provide a hermetic seal and to prevent bacterial re-infection. This is not unlike placing a cork in a champagne bottle to seal the flavor and bubbles in and the outside air out.
Many people have had horror stories about the root canal. In fact, very few of my patients say that they have any pain during the procedure, although may be a little sore for a day or two after. When most root canals fail, it is because the patient does not take the time after the procedure to restore the tooth with a crown. This is critical because a root canal tooth is brittle and will easily fracture. A requirement for most root canal treated teeth is to be restored with a post build up and a crown or cap to protect the remaining tooth structure from further fracture and the root canal from microleakage. Root canal treated teeth must be crowned, or they will fail! Alternatives to root canal treatment is extraction and implant or bridges; both option more costly, time-consuming and may be avoided with this simpler procedure.
Dr. Steve Gilson is a dentist in Plantation Florida that has been in practice for almost thirty years and as the general dentist does a root canal for almost all teeth. Occasionally the anatomy of a tooth or a history of failure to be successful with this treatment will dictate the referral to a specialist. It is the goal of my office and Gentle Family Dentistry to provide comprehensive treatment in one place. Further, many root canal treatments can now be done in one visit, so the treatment is not lengthy or drawn out. If you are having a problem call our office at (954) 424 – 4600 for a consultation and same day emergency treatment.