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General

Dentistry

Root Canal Therapy

While the outer layer of a tooth (the crown) is largely comprised of dense enamel, the inner chamber contains sensitive nerves and soft tissues. If bacteria reach this area, a root canal infection can result. Root canal infections require emergency treatment since the infection can quickly spread to the underlying bone and supportive structures of a tooth.

 

To stop the spread of infection and to preserve your natural tooth, one of our doctors may perform a root canal. The straight-forward procedure removes pockets of infections and seals your tooth to prevent further infection.

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What Causes a Root Canal Infection?


Some level of tooth decay is a reality of life. Over time, enamel wear and dietary factors increase the likelihood that you will experience one or more cavities. When cavities are treated promptly, there is little risk that the decay will reach the more sensitive areas of a tooth, like the layer of dentin or pulp chamber. Untreated cavities can spread deep into the tooth where, eventually, it reaches the pulp chamber. This is one reason why regular cleanings and checkups are critical to preventing root canal infections. Loose fillings can also lead to a root canal infection. Decay can form under a filling, where it eventually reaches the inner layers of the tooth. Trauma can also create chips or cracks that leave a tooth vulnerable to a root canal infection.




Root Canal Infection Symptoms


The sudden onset of pain is a common symptom of a root canal infection. Once bacteria reach the pulp chamber, the sensitive inner tissue will begin to swell. Since there is no room for the tissue to spread to, pressure increases, and the sensitive tooth nerves become inflamed. A root canal infection may also result in gum tissue swelling and pain that radiates from the tooth to the jaw or ears. If you experience the sudden onset of pain near a tooth, call our office immediately.




Root Canal Procedure Overview


Once one of our doctors has used digital x-rays and other forms of advanced imaging to diagnose the presence of a root canal infection, your treatment will begin. Our dentists are always mindful of your comfort. In addition to local anesthesia that fully numbs your tooth, our office offers nitrous oxide and oral sedation. Both options place patients in a deep state of relaxation throughout their dental procedure. Once you are comfortable, a small access hole will be drilled in the top of your tooth. Special tools will be used to remove infected tissue. Once the tooth is completely free of bacteria, a special material called gutta percha is used to fill the root canals and pulp chamber. To seal the hole that was drilled, a filling is placed. Within a short period of time after your root canal, a final inlay, onlay, or dental crown may be fitted to restore strength and structure to your tooth.




Post-Treatment Recovery


Following your treatment, mild discomfort is to be expected. Most pain can be managed with over-the-counter medications. Until your final restoration is placed, patients should take care to not place too much pressure on the tooth. You will be given detailed recovery guidelines that are to be followed closely. If you experience a sudden spike in pain in the days following your root canal, let our office know. Although rare, inner-tooth infections can return. Once your tooth has healed, patients should take care to prevent serious infections by practicing good oral hygiene habits and visiting our office twice a year for cleanings and checkups.





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