Root canal therapy, or endodontics, is a specialized set of procedures designed to treat problems of the soft pulp (nerve) tissue inside of a tooth. These treatments aim to treat infections of the pulp and also to preserve the structure of damaged teeth as well. Root canal therapy has the reputation of being a very painful dental procedure, but in reality most root canal treatments are no more painful than a common restorative filling. Actually, root canal therapy is one of the most effective methods of relieving some of the most intense discomfort that can accompany some dental ailments.
Root canal therapy becomes necessary when an infection or inflammation develops in the pulp tissue of the tooth. Pulp tissue contains the blood vessels, connective tissue, and nerve cells that can cause severe pain that may be temporary. Lingering and intense pain can be a sign of a serious infection or a dental abscess that can lead to systemic infections of the body and can complicate dental treatments as well. Although pain may subside, the active infection in affected teeth may get worse or spread to neighboring areas of the body like the face or neck.
Root Canal Therapy Saves Teeth
There really is no good reason to put off necessary endodontic treatment for infected or damaged teeth. The myth of the incredibly difficult and painful root canal treatment may be more effective as a stern warning to what could happen if one does not take good care of their teeth because there is no truth to it whatsoever. Often times root canal therapy is the only thing that can stop the searing pain that can accompany infected or damaged teeth. Toothaches can be one of the most excruciatingly painful things that a person can experience, and root canals are the safest and most effective treatments for these toothaches.
If infected or damaged teeth are not treated promptly with an endodontic procedure then they may not be able to be saved and will most likely need to be extracted. Losing a tooth due to disease or damage causes continuing oral health problems long after the tooth is gone. After a tooth is lost or extracted, neighboring teeth may begin to shift or migrate into the void left behind by the missing tooth. Tooth migration can lead to crooked teeth, crowded teeth, or uneven spacing to develop between teeth. These issues can translate to hard to clean areas of teeth which can invite periodontal problems such as receding gums, loss of jawbone, and even further tooth loss. When teeth are treated with root canal therapy, their long term prognosis is relatively good when properly restored by an expert like Dr. Shoemaker in Sherman, TX.
Causes of Root Canal Problems
Decay & Damage
Root canal therapy is used to treat inflammation and infection of the pulp tissue of teeth that can result from a variety of sources. One potential cause of infection can be deep tooth decay. Untreated or undiagnosed dental cavities can grow larger and eventually begin to infect the nerve tissue and blood supply of the affected tooth. Chipped or cracked teeth can also allow bacteria to enter the central areas of the tooth which can lead to infection or inflammation as well. Any opening in the tooth can be a potential access point for bacteria to enter and cause infection inside the tooth. Once infected, often times the symptoms go unnoticed until the tooth causes the patient enough pain to seek dental treatment and at which point root canal therapy is usually required to preserve the tooth and eliminate the discomfort.
Any impact or other trauma to a tooth can cause permanent damage to the pulp inside of a tooth. If the trauma is severe enough, the tooth may die as a result and will need to have root canal therapy to preserve the structure for future use. It is imperative to seek treatment right away if you have a tooth knocked out or loosened as a result of a trauma.
In some cases, extensive existing dental restorations can have a deleterious effect on teeth as they age or become worn. Multiple large fillings on a tooth may increase the risk of failure which can lead to infections or exposed nerves that might need root canal therapy to effectively treat. Restorative crowns and orthodontic treatments could also eventually lead to root canal problems for patients later on.
What to Expect During Root Canal Therapy
If an examination or if patient symptoms dictate that root canal therapy is required, Dr. Shoemaker will explain the entire process and why it is necessary to treat the affected tooth in this manner. Not to worry, root canal therapy is one of the most common, effective, and routine procedures that dentists used to restore infected or damaged teeth. Root canal therapy can usually be accomplished in just a single visit but rare cases require more than one visit.
To begin the procedure, Dr. Shoemaker will apply a local anesthetic to the areas that will be treated to ensure the utmost level of comfort for the duration of treatment. Most patients do not report any discomfort beyond the initial injection of local anesthetic! Dr. Shoemaker will then make a small access hole to reach the pulp chamber of the infected tooth with specialized tools designed specifically for root canal therapy. These tools remove infected and dead tissue within the pulp chambers and the narrow passages inside the roots.
Once cleaned and disinfected, the pulp chamber and root canals are filled with an inert, biocompatible material called gutta percha that will help to prevent reinfection of the area. A tooth colored filling will be used to fill the access hole that was used to clean and disinfect the tooth. If a tooth was treated for a particularly bad infection or for a dental abscess, then antibiotics may be prescribed before or after root canal therapy. Patients may experience some sensitivity or tenderness for the first few days after the treatment, but this is usually mild and very temporary. Over the counter Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs may help to relieve any discomfort, but prescription medications may also be prescribed for pain management if required. During this period immediately following root canal therapy it may be helpful to avoid biting or hard chewing with the treated tooth for a few days.
Typically, but especially for a cracked or broken tooth, a protective dental crown or similar restoration should be used to restore the strength and form to a tooth treated with root canal therapy. Dr. Shoemaker offers a variety of restorative material options such as porcelain fused to metal (PFM) and gold crowns. These restorations help to protect and prolong the treated tooth for years to come.
Signs and Symptoms of an Infected Tooth
Dental problems never get resolved without treatment and have the capacity to get much worse over time. A simple cavity can lead to the downfall of the entire tooth if it is left untreated long enough. There are warning signs that will indicate that a tooth is infected or damaged and they include:
- Severe, constant, and throbbing pain in or around a tooth
- A sensation of pressure in or around one or more teeth
- Noticeable swelling in gum tissue or areas of the face or neck
- Sensitivity or a boil on gum tissue
- Sharp pain when biting down with a certain tooth
- Lingering sensitivity in a tooth after consuming something hot or cold
- Foul odor or taste in the mouth
Contact Dr. Shoemaker in Sherman, TX today!
If you notice any of the symptoms mentioned above then we strongly encourage you to schedule an examination appointment with your dentist as soon as possible. If the pain of a toothache is not a strong enough motivating factor to see your dentist then perhaps one should consider the fact that the pain will only continue and the treatments necessary to rectify problems will only get more involved and costlier as time progresses. Dr. John Shoemaker has the training and expertise necessary to treat a wide variety of dental problems including providing expert root canal therapy. If you have had pain or discomfort in any of your teeth and you live in or near the Sherman, TX area then contact our office to schedule your new patient appointment with Dr. John Shoemaker today!