Save a decaying tooth with root canal therapy
Decay is a dirty word in dentistry. Decay, if detected early is not difficult to stop and address with common fillings. But if decay progresses and reaches the interior of the tooth, affecting the nerve, more drastic measures are required to save the tooth — a root canal. Although there are many misperceptions about the pain involved in a root canal, the reality is that this procedure is a relatively painless way to save a natural tooth that has extensive decay or damage. If you are considering a root canal, contact our Clear Lake, TX office.
What is root canal therapy?
Root canal therapy is necessary when the nerve of a tooth has been damaged by decay or infection. At this point, the goal is to save the tooth. This can be done by removing the infected pulp and nerves from the tooth. The tooth is then filled and crowned.
Many people believe that tooth extraction is an easier solution to an infected tooth. The truth is an extraction can cause many problems on its own. In addition, you will need to address the gap in your teeth following the extraction.
In contrast, a root canal has over a 95% success rate and it allows the patient to keep his or her tooth usually for the rest of their life.
Do I need a root canal?
You may need a root canal if you have a severe toothache or extreme sensitivity to hot and cold foods or beverages. There may also be swelling or tenderness in the area or an abscess on the gums. In some cases, the patient may not experience any symptoms at all. This is often true in cases of tooth trauma. Generally, we use x-rays to determine if decay or infection has reached the nerve of the tooth and would require a root canal. To schedule a root canal appointment, please contact our Clear Lake, TX office.
What can I expect during my root canal?
Occasionally, a root canal requires two appointments. At our office in Clear Lake, we begin the procedure by numbing the tooth. Then we open the top of the tooth to gain access to the interior. We remove all the decayed pulp, dentin, nerves, and bacteria from the tooth. If there is concern that all of the infection may not be completely removed, a temporary filling may be placed and you will return in a week or so for a second appointment to be sure the tooth is now infection-free. This step isn’t usually needed if the tooth is in the early stages of infection.
Either way, after the tooth is completely cleaned out, it is filled with a rubbery material called gutta-percha. The opening is then filled and often is covered with a crown to reinforce the tooth’s strength.
There are perceptions that root canals are very painful, but in reality, the procedure is no more painful than having a common filling placed in a tooth. People may have pain associations because the infection that leads to the root canal can be incredibly painful. Root canal therapy is not.
In the 40 years that I have been a patient I have had nothing but outstanding service from the hygienists, assistants, office staff and especially Dr. Peters himself. He has even come into the office on a Sunday to do a root canal that permitted me to stay on schedule for an important business trip. Basis my experience my son and daughter in law also rely on them for their dental care.
Why do I need a root canal?
There are cases where a patient isn’t experiencing the telltale serious pain usually associated with infection that has reached the interior of a tooth. These are often the result of earlier trauma, possibly from braces worn in adolescence, and the tooth has only recently developed the infection. We can spot those cases on your x-rays.
Usually, you’ll know why you need a root canal — you have some serious pain and your tooth is quite sensitive to hot and cold. This is because the injection has reached the nerves inside the tooth. The nerves are now exposed, inflamed, and angry.
But why a root canal? Because you want to save the tooth. If you don’t address the infection, serious consequences await. First, the decay will spread throughout the tooth and into the tooth roots. There it can exit the tooth and cause an abscess in your gums. Now the infection can spread all through your body. Recent research actually points to dental infection sometimes leading to cardiovascular problems.
Saving a tooth is almost always preferable to extraction. You won’t need to fill the gap with a bridge or dental implant. And your tooth saved by the root canal will often remain in place for the rest of your life.
What should I expect after my root canal procedure?
Root canals are not difficult procedures. You will have some soreness, mainly from having your mouth open for a period of time, but you can use the tooth normally immediately. From there, you will care for your tooth that had the root canal just as you would any other tooth.
Is root canal treatment painful?
Root canals have an undeserved reputation for extreme pain. That’s a wives’ tale that needs to go away. Root canals are no more painful than having decay removed and a filling placed in a tooth. Modern anesthesia ensures you won’t feel a thing during your root canal with Dr. Peters. Afterward, your jaw will be somewhat sore from being open during the procedure. If the tooth infection was beginning to irritate the gums, that may take a couple of days to fully settle down, but none of this is acute pain.
It may help to remember the goal of a root canal — to fully remove the infected nerves, blood vessels, and other tissue from the interior of the tooth. This removes the source of any pain, the nerves. The tooth can actually no longer have any sensation.
People confuse the pain of the infected tooth with the root canal procedure, and that’s unfortunate because these are effective procedures that are not very painful if they even involve any real pain at all.
How can I avoid the need for a root canal in the future?
With the exception of a tooth that develops an infection due to earlier trauma, the vast majority of teeth needing root canals are simply the result of poor home hygiene and a lack of professional cleanings and exams. If Dr. Peters and our team see you twice every year for your professional cleanings and exams, we will spot any tooth decay early on when it is just beginning to penetrate the tooth enamel. That will be quite easy to remove and place a small filling. Our x-rays will give us a good idea of what’s going on inside your teeth.
But if you don’t keep your regular appointments, that decay can progress. Eventually, it will work through the enamel, and then the dentin, and now it’s inside the tooth chamber and a root canal will be necessary.
All of that can easily be avoided with good home hygiene — brushing diligently for two minutes twice every day and flossing — and seeing Dr. Peters twice a year.
Will I need to be put on antibiotics before my root canal procedure?
It’s unlikely. Antibiotics were formerly prescribed far more freely, but digestive problems and potential allergic reactions can accompany them, so today their use is only necessary when the benefits outweigh the risks.
If, however, you have an abscess, we may want to use antibiotics first. This is rare.
The only patients who could possibly merit antibiotics prior to a root canal would be those with certain heart conditions. These patients could be at risk of developing an infection of the heart.
How long will my tooth last after a root canal?
Your tooth that has had the root canal will likely stay in place for the rest of your life. It’s easy to assume that the tooth, without its blood vessels and other tissue in its interior, is weak, but this is not the case. Once we reach adulthood, our teeth no longer need a blood supply. That is only necessary when the teeth are developing in childhood.
The one exception is if you develop gum disease. With gum disease, all of your teeth are in danger of loosening and eventually falling out. But with good hygiene, your tooth should be there for the long haul.
Are there any risks with root canal therapy?
These are low-risk procedures. The main risk is that all of the infection is not removed from the interior of the tooth. This is quite rare and could still be managed with another root canal.
The real risk is to not have a root canal. The tooth is infected and that infection will cause serious pain and it will eventually move down into the gums and start a downward spiral of gum disease and oral health nightmares.
Schedule an Appointment Today!
To learn more about Root Canals, contact Peters Dental Associates in Clear Lake, TX today at (281) 486-8061. We Proudly Serve Clear Lake, Webster, League City, Seabrook, And The Surrounding Areas. You can also read more about our other services on Peters Dental Associates’ blog!