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Root Canal Treatment

Most adult teeth will last a lifetime. However, if a tooth becomes infected or injured it can be saved through root canal treatment. Years ago, the tooth would have been extracted. But, removing the tooth is not the best option now. When a tooth is removed and not replaced it can cause the other teeth to shift and become crooked or crowded. This can decrease chewing efficiency, and increase the risk of gum disease as it is more difficult to clean improperly aligned teeth. A replacement tooth (an implant or a bridge) is an option but is often much more expensive and more involved. Therefore, having a root canal can save the tooth, your smile, and your wallet.

If you have an untreated cracked tooh, a deep cavity, or a traumatic injury to a tooth it is likely that the enamel (the exterior portion of the tooth that is hard and lies on the exterior of the tooth – it also protects against cavities) has been compromised. This allows entrance of bacteria into the deeper levels of the tooth. The bacteria travels through the dentin (the hard tissue on the inside of the tooth that supports the outer layer of tooth enamel) and into the pulp. The pulp extends from the pulp chamber in the middle of the crown down each root to the tip that lies in the bone of the jaw. The infection is felt because there are tons of nerves inside the pulp that radiate to the brain signaling that something is wrong. Beyond the pain, often swelling and redness are symptoms that are experienced as well. Without treatment the bacteria can damage the bone that anchors the tooth to the jaw and can result in a bone infection that is difficult to treat.

So, to treat the tooth, the dentist will first administer local anesthesia. Then, the dentist will remove the infected part of the tooth all the way to the pulp. The pulp or its remnants are then removed carefully from both the pulp chamber and the root canal(s). Each root is cleaned and shaped to allow it to be filled. Medication is often placed in these areas to eliminate any bacteria. A temporary filling will be placed on the tooth while your permanent crown is being made. Most likely you will be sent home with a prescription for antibiotics. In the final step, the tooth will be fully restored by a crown or a filling. The purpose is to strengthen the tooth and improve its appearance.

Dr. McCargar says “Many people are very fearful of having a root canal done, but I assure you that it is a completely painless procedure. The most pain that one feels is due to the infection and once the infection is treated then so is the pain.”