What is endodontic treatment i.e. Root Canal Therapy?

Root Canal ProcedureEndodontic treatment, or root canal therapy, treats the inside of the tooth. The dentists at Primary Dental, in Denver Colorado, are specialists in this area of treatment.

To understand endodontic treatment, it helps to know something about the anatomy of the tooth. Inside the tooth, under the white enamel and a hard layer called the dentin, there is a soft tissue called the pulp. The pulp contains nerves, blood vessels, and connective tissue and creates the surrounding hard tissues of the tooth during development.

The pulp (as seen in the diagram on the this page) extends from the crown of the tooth down to the tip of the roots where it connects to the tissues surrounding the root. The pulp plays an important role in the growth and development of a tooth. Once fully mature, the tooth can survive without the pulp, because the tooth is nourished by the tissues surrounding it.

Do I need a root canal?

A root canal, or endodontic treatment, is necessary when the pulp in your tooth becomes inflamed or infected. The inflammation or infection can have a variety of causes: deep decay, a crack or chip in the tooth, or even repeated dental procedures on the tooth. An injury to a tooth could cause pulp damage even if the tooth has no visible cracks or chips. If inflammation or infection of the pulp is left untreated, it can cause severe pain and/or lead to an abscess.

What are the signs of needing a root canal?

Signs to look for include tooth or gum pain, prolonged sensitivity to cold or heat, discoloration of the tooth, tenderness to touch and chewing, swelling, drainage and tenderness in the lymph nodes as well as nearby bone and gingival tissues. However, sometimes there are no symptoms. If you are suffering from any of these symptoms, schedule an appointment with your dentist for a consultation or treatment today.

How does endodontic treatment save the tooth?

The root canal process involves having the dentist remove the infected or inflamed pulp, carefully cleaning and shaping the inside of the canal, and then the dentist will fill and seal the space. Typically after this process you will return later to have a crown placed, or other restoration on the tooth, to protect and restore the tooth to full function. After restoration, the tooth continues to function like any other tooth.

Will I feel pain during or after the root canal procedure?

With the use of modern techniques and anesthetics, most patients report that they are comfortable during the root canal procedure. Your tooth may feel sensitive, for the first few days after treatment, especially if there was pain or infection prior to the procedure. This discomfort can be relieved with over-the-counter or prescription medications, according to your dentist’s instructions. Also, your tooth may feel slightly different from your other teeth for some time after your crown has been placed or tooth restoration has been completed. Call your dentist if you have severe pain or pressure that lasts more than a few days.

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How much will the procedure cost?

The cost of the procedure varies depending on how complex the problem is and which tooth is affected. For example, since molars are more difficult to treat, the fee is usually more. Most dental insurance policies provide some coverage for endodontic treatment.

Generally, a root canal and tooth restoration, or placement of a crown, is less expensive than having the tooth replaced with a bridge or implant. With root canal treatment you save your natural teeth and your money.

Will the tooth need any special care or additional treatment after endodontic treatment?

The unrestored tooth is susceptible to fracture, so you should see your dentist for a full restoration as soon as possible. You should not chew or bite on the treated tooth until you have had it restored by your dentist. Beyond that, you should practice good oral hygiene, including brushing, flossing, and regular dental checkups and cleanings.

Most endodontically treated teeth will last as long as other natural teeth. In a few cases, a tooth that has undergone endodontic treatment does not heal or the pain continues. If the tooth becomes painful or diseased months or even years after successful treatment, redoing the endodontic procedure may save the tooth.

What causes an endodontically treated tooth to need additional treatment?

New trauma, a loose, cracked or broken filling, or deep decay, can cause a new infection in your tooth. In some cases, the dentist may discover additional very narrow or curved canals that could not be treated during the initial procedure.

Can all teeth be treated endodontically?

Most teeth can be treated endodontically. Occasionally, a tooth can’t be saved because the root canals are not accessible, the tooth doesn’t have adequate bone support, the root is severely fractured, or the tooth cannot be restored. Advances in endodontics are making it possible to save teeth that even a few years ago would have been lost. When endodontic treatment is not effective, dental implants can be an ideal alternative.

Adapted from: The American Association of Endodontics, Root Canal Treatment