The "canals" of the tooth is a network chamber that leads from the pulp to the tip of the tooth from which the artery, vein and nerves pass into the jaw. The pulp is the soft area found inside the tooth’s core. The pulp chamber also contains blood vessels and connective tissue that nourish the tooth, and the tooth's nerves are situated within the canals of the roots of the tooth. Once tooth decay reaches the pulp/nerve tissue it can become extremely painful. A root canal is a treatment designed to repair and save tooth that has underwent severe decay and damage. The procedure involves cutting away the tooth’s decayed pulp and nerves, cleaning and sanitizing it, and then filling and sealing it. The pain level of root canal procedures is reported by most patients as being no different than getting a filling.
Why the Pulp is Removed
The pulp begins to decay as bacteria invades and multiplies within its chamber; this action can cause an infection or a pus-filled pocket in the tooth known as an abscess. Swelling from an infected tooth can also spread to other areas of the neck, head, and face, can lead to bone loss at the root tip, and drainage from the tooth into the gums or through the cheek into the skin. Removing the pulp (only provides heat and cold sensations) curbs the spread of the bacterial infection further and does not affect the daily function of the tooth.
Signs That Root Canal Therapy Is Needed
A patient with an infected tooth may experience no symptoms at all. However, there are several signs that will let you know if root canal therapy is needed:
- Excruciating toothache pain when eating or when biting downward
- Pain sensitivity that lingers after hot or cold temperatures have been removed off the tooth.
- Blackening of the tooth
- Inflammation and soreness in neighboring gums
- Continual development of a pimple on the gums
Length of a Root Canal Procedure
The choice of which dental practitioner will perform your root canal depends on the procedure’s level of difficulty. She may make the judgement call that your case would be better handled by an endodontist who specializes in the prevention, cause, diagnosis and treatment of dental pulp (or tooth nerve) diseases and injuries if your case is too severe.
Steps of a Root Canal Procedure
- The first step in this procedure is to take an X-ray to view the root canals’ shape to target the presence of bone also being infected in the surrounding area. Local anesthesia will be administered by Dr. Afsoon Gerayli or endodontist to numb the area near the tooth to make the patient feel more relaxed. Next, Dr. Afsoon Gerayli will place a rubber dam around the tooth to keep it dry and free of saliva during the root canal.
- A tiny incision will be drilled into your tooth so that she can gain access to the pulp chamber. She will then use a series of root canal files of various diameters to remove the bacteria, decayed nerve tissue, pulp, and any debris from the tooth’s root canals. Debris is periodically flushed away with water or sodium hypochlorite.
- After the tooth is thoroughly sanitized, the hole needs to be sealed. Tooth sealing may be done the same day it's sanitized, or be delayed by a week if she spots a tooth infection and may decide to apply medicine within the tooth to clear it up first. If the root canal isn’t sealed on the same day, the exterior hole is plugged in with a temporary filling to keep tooth contaminants out between appointments.
- She will fill the interior of the tooth’s root canal with a sealer paste and a compound rubber on the patient’s next appointment. A filling is then placed in the exterior access hole created at the start of the root canal treatment.
Further Tooth Restoration
The final step of a root canal may involve further tooth restoration since the tooth is often badly decayed or shows other signs of structural weakness. A crown, crown and post, or other restoration materials will be placed on the tooth to protect it from fracturing to restore its function. Dr. Afsoon Gerayli will discuss any additional dental work you will need.
Cost of a Root Canal
The cost of a root canal really depends on the severity of the infected tooth. Endodontic treatment is covered by most dental insurance policies.
Saving the Tooth
Extracting a badly decayed tooth is less expensive than a root canal, but often creates chewing issues and teeth shifting within the mouth. A root canal is designed to prevent the spread of a pulp/nerve infection and save the tooth at the same time. New infections could invade a tooth after a root canal for a variety of reasons. These issues will be discussed with you by Dr. Afsoon Gerayli to help you make an informed decision on how best to treat your tooth infection.