The root canal procedure is far more comfortable than it once was and patients have no need to fear it because of how it can instantly remove dental infections and control painful symptoms.
Root canals are one of the most common dental treatment performed by dentists with more than 15 million performed each year. If you need endodontic therapy it’s important to understand what this procedure entails and why you may need one.
What is a Root Canal?
A root canal is a dental treatment in which the pulp, or the soft center of the tooth, is removed. The dental pulp of a tooth is where the connective tissue, nerves and blood vessels are located, which is why root canals have a bad reputation for being painful. However, in most cases, we can perform a root canal while you are under local anesthesia. We also always have the option of dental sedation.
When is a Root Canal Needed?
When the dental pulp of a tooth becomes infected or injured, a root canal may be required. Removing the infected pulp is the best way to save your tooth and preserve its natural structure. Even if the dental pulp is dead (i.e. removed), the rest of your tooth can remain intact. Being able to save your natural tooth prevents you from having to spend additional time and money on other dental treatment, such as bridges, single tooth implants and dentures.
When tooth extraction is the only option, the missing tooth or teeth will need to be replaced with something to fill the gap. At Blue Water Dental we find many of our Langley patients are concerned about root canals and wonder why or if they may be necessary. The answer depends on whether or not the dental pulp is infected or damaged.
A tooth’s pulp can become damaged or inflamed if:
There’s severe dental decay in the tooth that was never treated.
It’s important to seek treatment as soon as possible. If the pulp of your tooth is infected, you have two options: root canal, or a whole tooth removal.
How Do You Know if You Need Dental Root Canal Procedure?
Our Langley dental staff can determine whether a root canal treatment or root canal retreatment is needed, but the most common signs of infected or damaged pulp include:
Pain in the tooth
Heat in the gums
If you’re experiencing these tell-tale signs of a dental infection, then we may recommend a root canal to prevent future dental complications. In addition to examining your tooth, we will also take digital X-rays to confirm that endodontic treatment is needed. If a complex root canal is needed, we may refer you to an endodontist for specialized dentistry.
What Happens During a Root Canal at our Langley office?
A simple root canal at our Langley clinic starts when you arrive for your dental appointment by helping you get comfortable in the chair and placing a bib to protect your clothing. From here, we’ll go through the following steps:
If you need a major dental procedure performed, such as a root canal, a crown may be necessary for protection. There are also times when a patient is missing a tooth from an extraction, which might affect the dentists' decision for a crown. There are other times when teeth are just in the wrong position and we may want to do Invisalign prior to a dental crown.
Patients sometimes come in with anxiety and for those patients we offer sedation. We’ll discuss all of this during your dental visit.
Before we get started, the first step is to numb the area surrounding the affected tooth. Once the area is numb, we will inject a local anesthetic into your gums. You may feel a little discomfort, but that will pass quickly.
Although you will be awake for most root canal procedures, the anesthetic will keep the area numb, so you don’t feel any pain. In some cases, we may need to use more anesthetic or deliver anesthesia in a different way to keep you comfortable during the procedure.
Remove the Dental Pulp and Seal
The next step is to remove the dental pulp by making a small precise hole in the top of the tooth. We will then use special tools, called files, to remove the damaged pulp from the tooth. At this time, we will also clean out the canals in your tooth. Once the pulp is removed and the canals are cleaned, we will fill and seal the area with gutta-percha and a special sealing paste. We may also prescribe antibiotics, although this is usually not required.
To finish off the procedure, we will fill the opening at the top of your tooth with either a temporary dental filling or a permanent composite filling. The filling will help protect the canals of your teeth.
Root Canal Aftercare – What to Expect After Tooth Endodontics Therapy
Once the anesthesia wears off, your gums may feel a little sore, and you may experience some swelling. Taking an over-the-counter pain medication, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen, can help ease dental discomfort.
Most patients are able to resume their normal daily routines the day after the procedure. Just make sure that you’re not chewing on the side of the affected tooth until it has a permanent filling or crown. When root canals are performed on back teeth, we typically place a permanent crown on top of the tooth.
A crown will help keep your smile looking natural and healthy. It can take some time to get used to the new feeling in your tooth. This is normal and may last a few weeks our goal to keep your smile looking great.
Root Canal Complications – When to Seek Help from our Langley Team
It’s normal to experience a little pain or swelling after the anesthesia has worn off, but the discomfort should ease over time. It's important to continue practicing good oral hygiene after the procedure to reduce the risk of dental complications.
If you’re still experiencing pain after a few days, call us to make an appointment. Sometimes, root canal treatments require two sessions. More cleaning sessions may be needed in severe cases. If the pain just won’t go away, this may be a sign that you need additional sessions. If an over-the-counter pain medication isn’t working, we may prescribe pain medication, but these will only be taken temporarily.
Another potential complication of a root canal is an abscess. If some of the infected material is left behind or the antibiotics don’t work as intended, an abscess may develop and will require immediate treatment. While we do everything that we can at our dental office to save your natural teeth, including root canals, sometimes, the damage is just too deep.
Sometimes, the enamel may be too fragile to survive the endodontics procedure. In these cases, the only option may be to remove the tooth. Some patients are afraid of root canals or apprehensive about the treatment. In this case, we may recommend a tooth extraction and replacing the missing tooth with a dental implant, bridge or partial denture. We will discuss all of your dentistry options to help you find one that you feel comfortable with.
How Long Does a Root Canal Therapy Last?
Root canals are a restorative dentistry procedure. With proper oral care, the results should last the rest of your life. Of course, the results really depend on your oral hygiene. Brushing and flossing regularly is the best way to extend the lifespan of your root canal. Occasionally a tooth may need a root canal retreatment but adopting good oral hygiene habits are the best thing you can do to extend the life of the root canal and protect any crowns placed following the procedure.
Here are some tips for optimum oral care from our Langley clinic:
Brush your teeth at least twice per day. Be gentle and use circular motions to clean your teeth without causing irritation. Be extra-gentle around the affected tooth.
Floss once a day.
Avoid eating very hard foods. It’s especially important to avoid hard foods right after the procedure.
Some patients are concerned about root canals increasing their risk of cancer. In the 1920s, a myth began circulating that linked root canals to cancer and other diseases. This myth is still circulating today thanks to the Internet. Where does this claim originate?
Research from Weston Price, a dentist from the early 20th century. According to Price and his personal research, teeth that have undergone a root canal can still harbor toxins that can develop into heart disease, cancer, arthritis and other medical issues.
Price’s tests are largely regarded as poorly designed by the medical community today. Here’s why:
Researchers have not been able to duplicate his results.
The conditions for his tests weren’t properly controlled.
His tests were typically performed in environments that weren’t sterile.
Critics of root canals believe that the dental community is trying to suppress Price’s research, but to date, there are no peer-reviewed studies that show a link between root canals and cancer.
Despite efforts to dispel this myth in dentistry, there are still many people and dentists who believe Price’s test results. This has given rise to claims that nearly all terminal cancer patients have previously had a root canal. However, there is no research or evidence to back this claim. Others have gone as far as having teeth extracted that had previously been treated with root canal therapy.
While it’s possible to remove a dead tooth, such as those treated with root canal therapy, it is unnecessary in most cases. We believe that saving your natural teeth is always the best option. Misinformation such as this generates fear about root canals and may prevent people from getting the treatment they need.
Thus far, we have no evidence that root canal therapy will lead to illness or disease. There is no need to be stressed or fearful about this procedure. In fact, many teeth that are treated with root canal therapy remain healthy and strong for a lifetime. The alternative to a dental root canal is tooth extraction. However, extractions require additional time and treatment because the missing tooth must be replaced.
Otherwise, the surrounding teeth will begin to move and shift, which can cause issues with chewing. Root canal therapy has come a long way in recent years. Dental treatments today are safe and effective. There is no need to be fearful.
It’s important to remember that claims that root canal therapy causes cancer isn’t backed by dental research or evidence. The idea is one that is outdated and based on flawed tests from more than 100 years ago. Dentistry and endodontic therapy has come a long way since then.
Today, dental equipment is more advanced and safer, as is our anesthesia and dental hygiene practices. Dentistry treatments that were once painful and potentially dangerous more than a century ago are now safe. Root canal therapy is a very common dental procedure, and it’s an effective way to treat infections in the pulp of teeth.
We take every step to make the procedure as comfortable as possible and are happy to discuss any concerns that you may have about the dental treatment at our Langley clinic.