Root Canals

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Root Canals and Your Dental Health

In the past, if you had a damaged tooth because of a diseased nerve, you had no choice but to have the tooth extracted. Today, thanks to advances in dentistry, many times we can save your tooth when there is nerve damage using the dental procedure affectionately (and we use that word loosely) referred to as root canal treatment. This straightforward process is quick and is not nearly as painful or scary as popular culture makes it out to be. Root canal treatments take anywhere from one to three visits to complete. Although you may wince at the notion of a root canal, this minor treatment can save your tooth and maintain your smile!

Why Do I Need a Root Canal?

The best way to answer that question is to address misconceptions about a tooth’s nerve function and root canals in general. You may not know this, but a tooth’s nerve is not critical to the health of the tooth once it has erupted through the gums. While the nerve is necessary during the development and formation of the tooth, after the tooth emerges from the gum the primary function of this nerve is to provide sensory information. The nerve gives you information about whether a liquid or food is hot or cold, but it does not play any role in the day-to-day function of your tooth.

Once patients learn this surprising dental fact, the next question they often ask is, “Then why do I need to have a root canal if the nerve isn’t necessary?” The reason for a root canal is because when a tooth has a deep cavity or becomes cracked in any way, bacteria are more likely to form in the pulp tissues. When bacteria develop in a tooth, germs can fester and create an infection. Once the tissue is infected, it should be removed as soon as possible, or pain and swelling will occur. The infection can also travel to your jawbone, which can be damaging to your overall health. If a root canal is not performed, you could lose your tooth.

How Do I Know If I Need to See My Dentist for a Root Canal?

Believe it or not, many teeth that need root canals are not painful at all. Even though you may not feel pain, your teeth may be giving you certain signs that you need a root canal.

The following are a few symptoms to be mindful of:
• Severe toothaches
• Pain when chewing
• Pain when pressure is applied to the area
• Sensitivity or pain to hot and cold temperatures that are lengthy or reoccur frequently
• Discoloration of the tooth
• Tenderness or swelling in nearby gums

If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms, contact us right away to schedule an appointment.

What Can I Expect during a Root Canal?

A typical root canal treatment can take anywhere from one to three visits. During the root canal, we will get rid of any infected tissue. Once the infected tissue is removed, the inside of the tooth will be cleaned, and a sealant applied. Lastly, we will use a dental composite to fill the tooth. If there is extensive decay in the tooth, we may recommend installing a crown on the tooth to provide added strength and protection to its structure. The crown will also prevent your tooth from breaking in the future.

How Long Does a Root Canal Last?

With proper brushing, flossing, and regular dental checkups, teeth restored by a root canal treatment can last a lifetime.