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Root Canal Treatment (Endodontic treatment) is necessary when the pulp, the soft tissue inside the root canal, becomes inflamed or infected. The inflammation or infection can have a variety of causes: deep decay repeated dental procedures on the tooth or a crack or chip in the tooth.

Reasons for Root Canal Treatment

Root canal treatment is necessary when the pulp, the soft tissue inside the root canal, becomes inflamed or infected. There are a whole host of reasons why you might need root canal treatment:

  • Deep decay
  • Repeated dental procedures on the tooth
  • Faulty crown
  • Crack or chip in the tooth

In addition, an injury to a tooth may cause pulp damage even if the tooth has no visible chips or cracks. If pulp inflammation or infection is left untreated, it can cause pain or lead to an abscess.

There are many clinical reasons for needing root canal treatment, but there are also countless practical reasons why saving the natural tooth is a wise choice. Endodontic treatment helps you maintain your natural smile, continue eating the foods you love and limits the need for ongoing dental work. With proper care, most teeth that have had root canal treatment can last a lifetime.

Benefits of Root Canal Treatment

Root canal treatment is virtually painless and often leaves you with less discomfort during recovery than if you have your natural tooth extracted. Thanks to modern techniques and effective anesthesia, patients who experience root canals are six times more likely to describe it as painless than patients who have a tooth extracted!

When you undergo a root canal or other endodontic treatment, the inflamed or infected pulp is removed and the inside of the tooth is carefully cleaned and disinfected, then filled and sealed with a rubber-like material called gutta-percha. Afterwards, the tooth is restored with a crown or filling for protection and will continue to function like any other tooth.

Benefits of Saving the Natural Tooth

There are many clinical reasons for needing root canal treatment, but there are also countless practical reasons why saving the natural tooth is a wise choice. Endodontic treatment helps you maintain your natural smile, continue eating the foods you love and limits the need for ongoing dental work. With proper care, most teeth that have had root canal treatment can last a lifetime.

Virtually Pain-Free Procedure

Root canal treatment is virtually painless and often leaves you with less discomfort during recovery than if you have your natural tooth extracted. Thanks to modern techniques and effective anesthesia, patients who experience root canals are six times more likely to describe it as painless than patients who have a tooth extracted.

Efficient & Cost-Effective

Tooth extraction can take longer than root canal treatment due to follow-up appointments required for a denture, bridge or implant; plus the cost may be higher. Most dental insurance plans cover endodontic treatment.

Visually Appealing Result

Crowns not only function like natural teeth; they look great, too. Improve your smile and laugh out loud again with root canal treatment.

Take the time to learn more about root canal treatment and some of the common misconceptions about it and then take the first step to a pain-free, healthy mouth by visiting an endodontist near you.

What is a Root Canal?

Has your dentist or endodontist told you that you need root canal treatment? If so, you’re not alone. Millions of teeth are treated and saved each year with the root canal, or endodontic, treatment. This page explains root canal treatment in detail and how it can relieve your tooth pain and save your smile.

“Endo” is the Greek word for “inside” and “odont” is Greek for “tooth.” Endodontic treatment treats the inside of the tooth. Root canal treatment is one type of endodontic 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, is a soft tissue called the pulp. The pulp contains blood vessels, nerves and connective tissue and creates the surrounding hard tissues of the tooth during development.

The pulp extends from the crown of the tooth to the tip of the roots where it connects to the tissues surrounding the root. The pulp is important during a tooth’s growth and development. However, once a tooth is fully mature it can survive without the pulp, because the tooth continues to be nourished by the tissues surrounding it.

Endodontic treatment is necessary when the pulp, the soft tissue inside the root canal, becomes inflamed or infected. The inflammation or infection can have a variety of causes: deep decay repeated dental procedures on the tooth or a crack or chip in the tooth. In addition, an injury to a tooth may cause pulp damage even if the tooth has no visible chips or cracks. If pulp inflammation or infection is left untreated, it can cause pain or lead to an abscess.

Signs to look for include pain, prolonged sensitivity to heat or cold, tenderness to touch and chewing, discoloration of the tooth, and swelling, drainage and tenderness in the lymph nodes as well as nearby bone and gum tissues. Sometimes, however, there are no symptoms.

The endodontist removes the inflamed or infected pulp, carefully cleans and shapes the inside of the root canal, then fills and seals the space. Afterward, you will return to your dentist, who will place a crown or other restoration on the tooth to protect and restore it to full function. After restoration, the tooth continues to function like any other tooth.

Many endodontic procedures are performed to relieve the pain of toothaches caused by pulp inflammation or infection. With modern techniques and anesthetics, most patients report that they are comfortable during the procedure.

For the first few days after treatment, your tooth may feel sensitive, especially if there was pain or infection before the procedure. This discomfort can be relieved with over-the-counter or prescription medications. Follow your dentist or endodontist’s instructions carefully.

Your tooth may continue to feel slightly different from your other teeth for some time after your endodontic treatment is completed. However, if you have severe pain or pressure or pain that lasts more than a few days, call your dentist  or endodontist.

Endodontic treatment can often be performed in one or two visits and involves the following steps:

  1. The endodontist examines and x-rays the tooth, then administers local anesthetic. After the tooth is numb, the endodontist places a small protective sheet called a “dental dam” over the area to isolate the tooth and keep it clean and free of saliva during the procedure.
  2. The endodontist makes an opening in the crown of the tooth. Very small instruments are used to clean the pulp from the pulp chamber and root canals and to shape the space for filling.
  3. After space is cleaned and shaped, the endodontist fills the root canals with a biocompatible material, usually a rubber-like material called gutta-percha. The gutta-percha is placed with an adhesive cement to ensure complete sealing of the root canals. In most cases, a temporary filling is placed to close the opening. The temporary filling will be removed by your dentist before the tooth is restored.
  4. After the final visit with your endodontist, you must return to your dentist to have a crown or other restoration placed on the tooth to protect and restore it to full function.

If the tooth lacks sufficient structure to hold the restoration in place, your dentist or endodontist may place a post inside the tooth. Ask your dentist or endodontist for more details about the specific restoration planned for your tooth.

  

The cost varies depending on how complex the problem is and which tooth is affected. Molars are more difficult to treat; the fee is usually more. Most dental insurance policies provide some coverage for endodontic treatment.

Generally, endodontic treatment and restoration of the natural tooth are less expensive than the alternative of having the tooth extracted. An extracted tooth must be replaced with an implant or bridge to restore chewing function and prevent adjacent teeth from shifting. These procedures tend to cost more than endodontic treatment and appropriate restoration.

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

Most endodontically treated teeth 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. Occasionally, the tooth may become painful or diseased months or even years after successful treatment. Often when this occurs, redoing the endodontic procedure can save the tooth.

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

Most endodontically treated teeth 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. Occasionally, the tooth may become painful or diseased months or even years after successful treatment. Often when this occurs, redoing the endodontic procedure can save the tooth.

Most teeth can be treated. Occasionally, a tooth can’t be saved because the root canals are not accessible, the root is severely fractured, the tooth doesn’t have adequate bone support, or the tooth cannot be restored. However, 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, endodontic surgery may be able to save the tooth.

Other Endodontic Treatment Options

In many cases of root canal treatment, your saved tooth will last a lifetime; but not every case is cut and dry. If you’ve already had endodontic treatment and you’re experiencing issues again, or if you’ve been told that a root canal procedure is no longer an option for you, know that there are endodontic treatment alternatives.

Endodontic Retreatment

During retreatment, the endodontist will reopen your tooth and remove the filling materials that were placed in the root canals during the first procedure. The endodontist then carefully examines the tooth, looking for additional canals or new infection. The endodontist then removes any infection, cleans and shapes the canals, and places new filling materials. The opening is then sealed with a temporary filling. Once the tooth heals, a new crown or other restoration is placed on the tooth to protect it.

Endodontic Surgery

Endodontic surgery can be used to locate small fractures or hidden canals previously undetected on X-rays during the initial treatment. Surgery may also be needed to remove calcium deposits in root canals, or to treat damaged root surfaces or the surrounding bone of the tooth.

There’s no need to worry about surgery if your endodontist prescribes this additional measure. Advanced technologies like digital imaging and operating microscopes allow these procedures to be performed quickly, comfortably and successfully. There are many surgical procedures that can be performed to save a tooth. The most common is called an apicoectomy, or root-end resection, which may be needed when inflammation or infection persists in the bony area around the end of your tooth after a root canal procedure.

Dental Implants

Do everything possible to save your teeth before considering extraction – it should always be a last resort!

If an endodontic procedure can’t save your tooth and it must be extracted, you should consider a dental implant that will enable you to bite and chew properly, keep healthy teeth from shifting, and help you maintain a natural appearance. Carefully discuss your options for treatment with your dental team to ensure you pick the treatment that is best for your overall health.

Saving Your Natural Tooth

Nothing looks, feels or functions like your natural tooth. Regular brushing and flossing, along with six-month check-ups from you dentist, can help you keep your teeth for a lifetime.

Sometimes your teeth may have infection or disease and will need additional care. When possible, you should always consider treatments to save your teeth. You may think, why not have a tooth pulled, especially if no one can see it, but you will know your tooth is missing and it will negatively impact your quality of life.

Don’t get a tooth pulled because you think its easier or more cost-effective. Missing teeth can cause other teeth to shift, affect your ability to properly chew and ruin your smile. Tooth extraction often is more painful than the infection itself, and replacing an extracted tooth with an artificial one requires additional dental visits that can quickly add up.

Modern endodontics offers advancements in technologies, procedures and materials, giving you many treatment options to save your natural teeth. It’s important to understand your choices and how they’ll impact both your tooth and your future dental health. It’s always best to retain your natural teeth whenever possible and endodontic treatment should be your first choice for the best health and cosmetic results. Endodontists are specialists in saving teeth. They can evaluate your condition and provide the best treatment plan to help you save your teeth for a lifetime.

Here are some tips for saving your teeth:

  • When given a choice between tooth extraction and root canal treatment, always opt for a root canal. No denture, bridge or implant will look, feel and function as well as a natural tooth.
  • Act immediately when you experience symptoms of swelling or pain. Most endodontists can accommodate emergency cases, even on weekends, ensuring you’ll be seen quickly.
  • If your dentist recommends tooth extraction, ask whether the root canal is an option.
  • If you’re told root canal is not an option, ask why and request a referral to an endodontist or use the AAE’s Find an Endodontist search tool to find a practice near you.

Root canals treatment from an endodontist is virtually painless and often leaves you with less discomfort during recovery than if you have your natural tooth extracted. Thanks to modern techniques and effective anesthesia, patients who experience root canals are six times more likely to describe it as painless than patients who have a tooth extracted! Take the time to learn more about root canal treatment and some of the common misconceptions about it and then take the first step to a pain-free, healthy mouth by visiting an endodontist near you.

How does endodontic treatment save the tooth?

It’s necessary to have endodontic or root canal treatment when the inside of your tooth (the pulp) becomes inflamed or infected as a result of deep decay, repeated dental procedures, faulty crowns or a crack or chip in the tooth. Trauma to your tooth may also cause pulp damage even if the tooth has no visible chips or cracks. If pulp inflammation or infection is left untreated, it can cause pain or lead to an abscess.

When you undergo a root canal or other endodontic treatment, the inflamed or infected pulp is removed and the inside of the tooth is carefully cleaned and disinfected, then filled and sealed with a rubber-like material called gutta-percha. Afterward, the tooth is restored with a crown or filling for protection and will continue to function like any other tooth.

Endodontic treatment helps you maintain your natural smile, continue eating the foods you love and limits the need for ongoing dental work. With proper care, most teeth that have had root canal treatment can last a lifetime.

Myths About Root Canals

The thought of a root canal may make you fearful or uneasy if you aren’t familiar with the procedure. There are common misconceptions that endodontic treatments such as root canals, cause pain and/or illness and should be avoided at all costs. The exact opposite is true. The pain, inconvenience and cost of avoiding endodontic treatment in favor of tooth extraction or a wait-and-see approach can be easily avoided. The longer you postpone treatment the more you risk the chance to save your tooth. Take the time to read the information on our website to find out what endodontists do to save teeth with minimal time and discomfort. Then address any remaining concerns or questions with your dentist or endodontist.

Put your mind at ease as we dispel three common myths about root canals:

Myth 1: Root canal treatment is painful.

Decades ago that may have been the case, but with modern technology and anesthetics you won’t experience any more pain than if you went to have a cavity filled. The pain from a severe toothache, often caused by damaged tissues in the tooth, can be easily remedied when an endodontist removes the damaged tissue through root canal treatment. In addition, endodontists are experts in pain management, and most cases can be treated quickly and comfortably.

Myth 2: Root canal treatment causes illness.

Information you may find on the Internet or elsewhere, claiming that if you receive a root canal treatment you’re more likely to become ill or contract a disease in the future simply isn’t true. This false claim was based on long-debunked and poorly designed research conducted nearly a century ago, long before modern medicine understood the causes of many diseases. There is no valid, scientific evidence linking root canal treatment to disease elsewhere in the body.

Myth 3: It’s better to pull a tooth than have root canal treatment.

Saving your natural teeth, if possible, is always the best option. Nothing artificial can replace the look or function of a natural tooth so it’s important to always consider root canal treatment as an option. Endodontic treatment has a high success rate and many root canal-treated teeth last a lifetime. Replacing an extracted tooth with a bridge or implant requires more time in treatment and may result in further procedures to neighboring teeth and supporting tissue.

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Article by AAE- Amerian Association of Endodontist

The AAE partners with Dear Doctor to provide dental articles to the general public. Review the articles below to learn more about root canal treatment, saving teeth and endodontic specialists.