Endodontics, or root canal therapy, occurs when bacteria gets into the nerve of your tooth. Root canals are needed as a response to either inflammation (swelling of the nerve) or bacterial infection of the nerve. Although root canals have a bad rap in society, root canals are now usually very straightforward experiences which will help a patient get out of pain quickly and reliably and will help save a tooth which may need to otherwise be pulled, thanks to modern technology and medical advances. They are a great resource for helping a patient get back to optimal health.

At Smile Always, you can rest assured our experienced and compassionate Parker dental team will help you answer all of your questions and ensure you feel comfortable during this process. It can be overwhelming to hear you need a root canal but with the right care, we can have you back to healthy in no time!

What Is A Root Canal?

Root canals are a treatment for removing infected nerve tissue from a tooth and replacing them with a filling. They clean out a tooth that is infected. 

How Many Visits Does A Root Canal Take?

Root canals can usually be completed in one visit unless the tooth is severely infected. If this is the case, then the root will be filled with a medicine and will be completed at another visit. A temporary filling will be placed in your tooth in between the two appointments if this is needed. The majority of root canals performed in our office are done in one visit.

Are root canals painful?

Dentists give their patients local anesthetic for the procedure, so typically root canals feel no different to patients than fillings do. The dentist will rub your gums with benzocaine, a topical substance which will make your tissues numb, and then follow-up with a local anesthetic which will numb the tooth and surrounding areas. The bigger the abscess, the harder a tooth is to get numb so it is very important to see your dentist regularly to catch problems when they are small and not yet painful.

Are root canals avoidable?

The most optimal way to prevent the root canal is to see your dentist regularly and catch cavities and cracks when they are smaller. Also, mitigating or preventing decay or stress which cause cracks initially is the best way. As the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. This means brushing and flossing well, seeing your dentist for preventative appointments, and taking care of problems as soon as they are diagnosed. In addition, if your dentist finds evidence of clenching or grinding, that stress can cause fractures in teeth which lead to root canals and extractions. Therefore, diagnosing that problem and getting an occlusal guard can be very helpful.

Are root canals safe?

Root canals are not only safe but also help remove bacteria from the tooth and re-establish oral health. This helps not only get your mouth and bones healthy but can also be transformative for your overall health, decreasing bacterial load and helping optimize your immune system. There is some bad science out there which accuses root canals of not being safe, but that science is not backed by evidence-based data; in fact, it all stems from a faulty study conducted in 1920 and since has been overturned and disproven. Unfortunately, the myth continues to propagate and scare. The materials we use in root canals are completely bio-compatible and safe. A root canal is a great way to save your tooth and get your mouth and body healthy. Make an appointment today to see if it is a viable treatment for your tooth.

Why is my tooth hurting?

Tooth pain is a very real sign that you may need a root canal, especially what we call spontaneous tooth pain. This means that without exposing your tooth to hot, cold, sweets or biting, your tooth hurts all on its own. This is a sign of inflammation (swelling) or infection (bacterial presence) in your nerve. Because your nerve is surrounded by hard dentin and enamel, when it swells, there is no room for it to expand. This swelling is what causes pain. Sometimes the infection can spread into your bone which can also contribute to your pain.

Are root canals a long-term solution?

Absolutely root canals can be a long-term solution, especially for the right tooth. Root canals have a success rate of between 90% to 95% so they are a highly reliable treatment for healing tooth infections. Depending on far the cavity has reached inside the tooth, a root canal is a great option for keeping your natural tooth structure, preserving bone and keeping your smile healthy and functional. The most important factor for the success of a root canal is getting a timely crown placed on top which seals the root canal and helps protect it from getting re-infected. We recommend you get the crown on a tooth no more than three weeks after finishing the root canal. This combined with good home care (brushing and flossing) and regularly seeing the dentist for preventative checkups will maximize the life of your dentition.

Should I get a root canal instead of an implant?

Getting a root canal or an implant greatly depends on many factors, including the level of bone in the area, the extent of the cavity in the tooth, and others. If we can preserve the natural tooth in the bone, which is accomplished with a root canal but not an implant, it is more beneficial for the overall health and longevity of the mouth. Dr. Jyothi can have an in-depth conversation with you about the pros and cons of each treatment option for your particular case.

How long does a root canal take to heal?

Root canals are technically dental surgery and like any surgery, there will be a recovery period involved. Root canals can be a taxing experience, so we recommend patients take the rest of the day off if possible and allow for a couple days of recovery. However, there are many patients who feel well enough to resume their normal schedule immediately following the procedure. Typically, patients in pain will feel an immediate decrease in the pain levels. If your infection spread to the bone, your body will start healing that infection and over time, it should resolve completely but this can take weeks to months. This healing will typically be completely painless and will be monitored by your dentist via x-rays. If the pain does not resolve in three days or continues to get worse, you should make a follow-up appointment with your dentist.

Will getting a root canal weaken my tooth?

Yes, when you need to get a root canal, the integrity of the tooth is weakened. This is because when a tooth needs a root canal, it means a cavity or crack has taken away some of the healthy tooth structure. Less solid tooth structure means a weakened tooth. Putting a crown on top of the tooth is how we resolve this issue which will help prevent future cracks or breaks due to the weakened tooth structure. This is one of the reasons a crown is strongly recommended quickly after a root canal is done.

Will a tooth that needs a root canal heal itself?

A tooth which needs a root canal will unfortunately never heal itself. The bacteria have pervaded inside the tooth so significantly that removing the nerve is the only way to heal that infection. Many times, patients feel some relief especially after a round of antibiotics, but that infection is bound to return with pain if enough time passes. This is why, especially after a round of antibiotics, it is imperative you complete the recommended treatment as soon as possible.

What happens if I do not get a root canal if recommended?

If the tooth remains infected, the infection will spread to the surrounding nerve and bones. This can cause swelling, which can sometimes turn life threatening. Sometimes delaying treatment can mean that your dentist will no longer be able to save that tooth and it may need to be pulled. In the worst case scenarios, if the infection spreads to other parts of your body, it can cause sepsis which is life threatening as well.

How do I know I really need a root canal?

The important thing to note is that pain is not always a factor on teeth which need root canals. In fact, if we are able to diagnose an infection before it becomes painful, statistically the outcome of the root canal increases significantly. So it is always better to get the root canal done before the pain develops. Your dentist should be able to tell you how they diagnosed the need for the root canal so you know exactly why the root canal is recommended. It can be cavities which have gotten deeply into the tooth but are not always visible without an xray, a crack which has developed, or even gum disease which has gotten so severe it has exposed the nerve.

If you need a second opinion, schedule a FREE CONSULTATION with Dr. Jyothi K today!