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Brian Lyngaas, D.D.S.

Root Canal Therapy Can Save Damaged Teeth

If you have been informed by your dentist that you need root canal therapy, you are probably wondering what this involves. The good news is that root canals are a highly effective treatment.

What is causing my pain?

root canal therapy patient

Your teeth are made up of a number of layers. The outer layer is the enamel, underneath that is the dentin, and inside is the pulp. The pulp is soft tissue and contains the tooth's nerves, as well as other tissues such as lymph vessels, veins, and arteries. Nerves run from the end of each tooth's roots to the pulp chamber through small divisions called root canals. Each tooth has up to four of these.

Bacteria can enter the pulp of a tooth and lead to infection. This can be caused either by a broken tooth or by a deep cavity, and can lead to the death of the tooth. When this happens, it is no longer possible to relieve the pressure inside the tooth, which leads to pain, for example when drinking hot coffee or eating ice cream, or when chewing on the infected tooth. This infection does not heal on its own and so can spread into the surrounding bone.

How can root canal therapy help?

Without treatment, your tooth may eventually fall out because of the degeneration of the bone around it, while pain can become severe, necessitating an emergency dental visit and possibly extraction. The idea behind root canals is to clean out the part of the pulp that has become diseased, reshape the canal, and seal up the tooth; this stops the infection from getting worse. This procedure, which is often followed by the fitting of a metal or porcelain crown, will let you keep your natural tooth.

Your root canal Livonia MI dentist may perform the procedure, or you may be referred to a root canal specialist, known as an endodontist. You will likely get local anesthetic, which will void the pain that many dental patients fear. The diseased tooth will be isolated and thoroughly cleaned, and you may be given medication to help fight the infection. In some cases, the dentist or endodontist will leave the tooth open to drain out the diseased pulp; alternatively, you may be fitted with a temporary filling until a crown is fitted.

What are the alternatives?

Root canal therapy is a very safe and effective procedure, with a success rate of over 95 percent. Because an infected tooth is likely to eventually fall out if left untreated, the only practical alternative is a tooth extraction. This has a number of disadvantages: you will have an unsightly gap, which may require a bridge or implant at a greater cost than a root canal. The gap can also give you an uncomfortable bite as the surrounding teeth will move.

The healing process after the treatment can lead to mild discomfort for a little while, but you can take medication to lessen its effects. Treating your teeth with care after root canals, for example brushing and flossing correctly and avoiding biting down on hard foods, will help minimize the chances of you needing further treatment. If you are advised that you need root canals, take the opportunity, as it gives you the best chance of keeping your natural teeth.

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