Most people go to see a dentist on a regular basis. Others will only go to see the dentist when they have a toothache or other such issue. Unfortunately, often a decayed tooth that is left untreated can result in more serious concerns.

The nerve in the tooth can get infected and the tooth can start to hurt.  When this happens, one way to treat the infection is with a root canal. The other way to treat an infected tooth is to remove it by extraction.

When told they need a root canal, a lot of people ask, “What is a root canal”? There are a lot of misconceptions surrounding root canals, including what the treatment is, if the treatment is painful, who can perform it, and how successful the outcome of the treatment is.

Causes of a Root Canal

Root canals are used to treat tooth decay after a tooth has become infected or abscessed.  In these cases, a cavity has progressed beyond the outer layer of the tooth called enamel, and into the deeper dentin layer.  The dentin layer is close to the nerve in the middle of the tooth.  When decay continues deep into dentin, it eventually reaches the nerve structure of the tooth, called the pulp. As a result the nerve gets inflamed and eventually dies.  As this happens chemicals are released, which cause an infection to develop under the root of the tooth. When this happens, people will generally experience pain and swelling. It is usually at this point when individuals seek out a dentist who can relieve and treat the pain that they are experiencing with a root canal.

Untreated cavities are the most common reason for needing a root canal.  Other reasons for needing this treatment can be if the tooth has a fracture or a crack and the nerve is exposed to the bacteria in the mouth because of this.  In some cases, root canals can also be needed after a deep filling or restoration such as a crown is placed on a tooth and the nerve gets inflamed from the treatment.

Who Can Perform Root Canals?

Root canals can be successfully completed by a general dentist or a specialist called an endodontist. Most dentist will decide on a case-by-case basis as to whether or not they choose to perform a root canal, or if they prefer to refer a patient to an endodontist.

What You Can Expect During a Root Canal

During a root canal, the tooth that is being worked on will be anesthetized, similar to a filling for a cavity. This means that the process should be painless. Once the tooth is frozen, the dentist or endodontist will remove the decay as well as inflamed and infected pulp and any other nerve tissue that is located in the root of the tooth.  After everything has been removed, the root is prepared and then filled.  The special filling material used acts as a sealant preventing oral fluids from reaching the tooth, and possibly re-infecting the tooth.

With a successful root canal, the root and nerve chamber of the tooth are sealed off and protected.  However, the top part of the tooth which is visible in the mouth is severely weakened from the procedure. In order to save the tooth over the long term and to restore proper function, a crown may be needed to cover and protect the remaining tooth structure.  Depending on the extent of the root canal, the dentist can successfully complete the procedure in one or two visits.

When completed correctly, root canals have a very high success rate and are exceptionally less expensive than the alternatives—extraction and implants.

Root canals can be avoided with routine checkups.  If cavities are detected early enough, a small filling can be used to treat the decay before it makes its way deep inside the tooth and infects the nerve.

If you are experiencing a toothache, swelling, or any other dental issues, schedule an appointment with your New Westminster dentist, Atlantis Dental Roundhouse today! Don’t put off dental concerns, see your dentist as soon as you can, your teeth will thank you!