Root canal therapy is a very common dental procedure. According to recent statistics in the United States alone almost 41,000 root canals are performed every day and close to 15 million are done over the course of a year. Because it has high success rate, a root canal procedure is considered one of the most effective methods of saving and retaining a tooth that has been severely compromised by dental decay or injury.
Your teeth are much more than just the hard outer biting surfaces and the roots. Inside of each one is a central chamber that contains connective tissue, a nerve supply, and blood vessels. Collectively these core tissues, known as the dental pulp, help your tooth to grow and mature before it emerges into the mouth. Once your tooth is in place, the dental pulp provides nourishment, keeps the tooth vital, and alerts you of problems. Having sensitivity to various stimuli like biting down and eating or drinking hot or cold items is a warning from the nerves inside your tooth that dental decay is present, dental trauma has occurred, or an infection is brewing. The degree of pain that you experience depends on the extent of the damage and nerve involvement.
If your endodontist informs you that a tooth needs a root canal, it is because the dental pulp has become irreversibly damaged or has died. However, if enough intact tooth structure remains and there is healthy bone support around the compromised tooth, you do not need to have the tooth extracted. A fully developed tooth does not require the dental pulp to remain functional. You can preserve your natural tooth by having your endodontist perform a root canal on the tooth.
It is important that when a root canal is recommended, you begin care promptly. Delaying the procedure increases the risk of more widespread symptoms developing. Left untreated a dental infection can develop or worsen and have serious consequences to your overall health.
With the modern dental instruments and advanced techniques available today having a non-surgical root canal procedure is often as comfortable as getting a routine dental filling. While some root canals can be completed in one visit, others may involve 2 or 3 appointments. How long it takes depends on factors such as the number of canals in a tooth, their anatomy and whether an active infection is present. If it is determined that the tooth is not a candidate for a root canal procedure, or if complications develop during or after care that have an impact on the prognosis of your tooth, the endodontist will inform you.
During a non-surgical root canal procedure your endodontist will remove the diseased dental pulp, clean the internal portion of your tooth, and then fill all the prepared canals with a biocompatible filling material. Non-surgical root canal therapy is typically performed under local anesthesia, but additional options like nitrous oxide, IV and oral sedation are available to reduce any anxiety that may be associated with dental procedures.
Once your root canal therapy is completed and the tooth is symptom free, you are to return to your restorative dentist. Our office will send your dentist a record of your endodontic care. Your restorative dentist may then recommend placing a permanent restoration like a crown on the tooth. This will protect the tooth and give it back its appropriate natural form and function.
While the cost varies depending on which tooth is involved and the complexity of the case, saving a tooth by means of a root canal procedure is a wise investment. With proper maintenance and care teeth that have been treated with root canals can last a lifetime.