09 Mar What Is a Root Canal?
You come to see the dentist with complaints of an aching tooth. The dental hygienist takes an x-ray of the area. The dentist comes into the room and starts rattling off dental terms that sound a little strange and hands you a referral to see the endodontist. You might need a root canal.
Deep decay can reach the portion of your tooth below the gum line and cause major problems very quickly. This is why it is crucial to address tooth decay as soon as your dentist identifies a problem area. The thing about tooth aches is you cannot simply wait them out like you can other injuries. Teeth need a dentist’s help to heal properly after they have been damaged by decay or trauma.
Believe it or not, you are lucky to have made it to your dental office in time to be able to save your tooth with a root canal. Ignored much longer, you might end up with a root fracture. Fractured teeth require an extraction by an oral surgeon. Really the best thing to do is keep up with your twice-yearly dental visits and have fillings completed in a timely manner as your dentist recommends them. But, if you have gotten to the point of requiring a root canal, all hope is not lost.
A tooth requiring a root canal typically has some sort of treatable infection surrounding the portion of the tooth below the gum line. The infection will cause painful inflammation that typically motivates a patient to pay a visit to their dental office. Root canals involve the removal of the infection and placement of a medicated soft temporary filling material.
The material used by the endodontist to seal the hole in the tooth is not strong enough to be a permanent fix, so you must see your general dentist after the appropriate time has passed to continue repairing the tooth. Once you have completed your appointment at the endodontist, you will return to your regular dental office for restoration. It is important to restore the tooth as soon as your endodontist advises, because the structural integrity of your tooth has been compromised by the root canal.
You can still run the risk of fracturing your tooth after a root canal is completed because your tooth will be more brittle than it once was. To protect your tooth, there are multiple options that your dentist will present. For an anterior tooth, this can either be in the form of a permanent filling or in the form of a core buildup and porcelain crown. For a posterior tooth, the restoration after a root canal will almost always be a core buildup and porcelain crown. This repair can last a patient anywhere between several years to a decade.
There may come a time when your crown must be replaced, due to general wear and tear. It is also possible for the tooth to require a re-treatment after a period of time. Another thing to note is that a tooth that has been previously restored with a crown or filling is not necessarily safe from the potential of a root canal.
After a long period of time, and after extensive grinding and pressure, a tooth with a crown may require a root canal even if the structure of the crown seems undisturbed. In this case, the endodontist will drill directly through the top of the crown and sometimes the crown itself can be saved, with the dentist simply placing the permanent filling into the existing crown.
Currently, porcelain crowns are the preferred treatment option over metal crowns, as they blend in nicely with the rest of your teeth. Similarly, for the permanent filling, composite resin is the preferred material because it is more aesthetically pleasing than an amalgam filling.
If you are experiencing a toothache, it is important to see your dentist as soon as possible to get to the “root” of the issue!