1. What is a root canal?
Root canal therapy, or endodontics, is a branch of dentistry that deals with treatment of dental pulp (nerve) damage and is the best way to directly address the pain and save the tooth. This can be performed by a general dentist or you may be referred to a root canal specialist. During a root canal procedure, infected nerve tissue is cleaned out and replaced with filler to prevent further infection. With proper anesthesia and use of a laser, root canal therapy can be a pain free process. Generally caused by tooth decay or shock, pulp or nerve tissue damage can be an excruciating experience, with symptoms including pain while chewing, sensitivity and swelling. If left untreated, pulp damage can lead to abscesses, or pus-filled infections, and eventually to tooth loss.
2. Is root canal on the molars similar to that on the front teeth?
A root canal on the molar tooth is similar in procedure to a front tooth. A front tooth will many times just have one long canal however; molar teeth have more than one root and several nerves that need to be treated. Cleaning of these multi-rooted molar teeth can be more difficult and requires more time, skill and equipment. At Arizona Center for Laser Dentistry, we employ the latest in Laser technology by using minimally invasive treatment and decontaminate the infected tooth. The use of the laser debrides and sterilizes the inside of the tooth and greatly decreases the possibility of future re-infection or failure of root canals. If you are experiencing tooth pain, sensitivity or swelling, it is important to act quickly, not only to relieve your pain, but also to save the tooth from a possible extraction.
3. Is it worth going through so much trouble just to save a tooth, instead of extracting it?
Teeth in general have a specific function within the mouth and therefore many teeth are specifically worth saving if root canal treatment is possible. An extraction (removal) of a tooth maybe an inexpensive and quick option yet many times is not in the best interest of the patients’ long term dental health. Extractions can lead to other teeth moving into the now void space, food traps, and future expensive restorations.
4. Are x-rays really necessary during the course of root canal treatment?
Yes, x-rays are an important step in the proper treatment and final stages of root canal treatment. The dentist does not have x-ray vision and many times root canals are very narrow and have many bends and curves. Not using an x-ray during the course of treatment would be like driving from California to New York without knowing if you are actually heading east. A dentist has to know the length of the root canal he is treating as well as the size and shape of the root’s canals which can only be properly viewed by x-rays. Root canals in dentistry today have come a long way with the incorporation of digital x-rays and laser root canal therapy.
5. After the first visit, when the pain has disappeared, can I just leave the root unfilled since it is not bothering me?
A root canal is only half of the final treatment of the tooth and is only as strong as the final seal around it. This seal can be in the form of a filing or a crown. Many times when root canals are preformed the dentist has had to drilled through an existing large filling or a large part of the natural tooth has broken off or is missing due to decay. Once the root canal is completed, the dentist will recommend the kind of sturdy restoration that should be placed on the tooth. In the case of a back molar tooth, it is highly advised to place a crown. This will provide an internal seal and maintain normal chewing functions.
6. Will it be just as strong as my other teeth and can it decay just as my other teeth can?
If a root canal has been well restored, either by a filling or a crown, then it should be as strong as your other teeth. Just like other teeth, a tooth that has had a root canal is subject to decay and the environment within your mouth. It is important to follow up on your regular dental checkups to see if the root canal and the seal placed over the root canal is maintaining a proper seal.