Everybody wants to have a pretty smile, be able to chew food easily, and rest their jaws comfortably. Losing a tooth can prevent their ability to achieve these goals. NO REPLACEMENT is as good as a natural tooth, and sometimes your natural tooth requires root canal treatment to remain a healthy, functioning part of your mouth and to keep other teeth from shifting.
If you’ve been told you need root canal (endodontic) treatment, you can find the answers to your questions below.
Q. Who performs endodontic treatment?
All dentists, including your general dentist, receive basic training in endodontic treatment in dental school. General dentists often refer patients needing endodontic treatment to endodontists.
Q. Who is an “endodontist”?
An endodontist is a dentist with special training in diagnosing and treating problems associated with the inside of the tooth. To become endodontic specialists, they complete dental school and an additional two or more years of advanced training in endodontics, one of the nine specialties recognized by the American Dental Association. They perform routine as well as difficult and very complex endodontic procedures, including retreatment of previous root canals that have not healed completely, as well as endodontic surgery. Endodontists are also experienced at finding the cause of oral and facial pain that has been difficult to diagnose.
Q. Why would I need an endodontic procedure?
Endodontic treatment is necessary when the pulp, the soft tissue inside the root canal, becomes inflamed or infected. The inflammation or infection can have a variety of causes: deep decay, repeated dental procedures on the tooth, or a crack or chip in the tooth. In addition, an injury to a tooth may cause pulp damage even if the tooth has no visible chips or cracks. If pulp inflammation or infection is left untreated, it can cause pain or lead to an abscess.
Q. What are the signs of needing endodontic treatment?
Signs to look for include pain, prolonged sensitivity to heat or cold, tenderness to touch and chewing, discoloration of the tooth, swelling, drainage or tenderness in the lymph nodes as well as nearby bone and gingival tissues. Sometimes, however, there are no symptoms.
Q. How does endodontic treatment save the tooth?
The endodontist removes the inflamed or infected pulp, carefully cleans and shapes the inside of the canal, a channel inside the root, then fills and seals the space. Afterwards, you will return to your dentist, who will place a restoration and crown on the tooth to protect and restore it to full function. After restoration, the tooth continues to function like any other tooth.
Q. Can all teeth be treated endodontically?
Most teeth can be treated. Occasionally, a tooth can’t be saved because the root canals are not accessible, the root is severely fractured, the tooth doesn’t have adequate bone support, or the tooth cannot be restored. However, advances in endodontics are making it possible to save teeth that even a few years ago would have been lost. When endodontic treatment is not effective, endodontic surgery may be able to save the tooth.
Q. What causes an endodontically treated tooth to need additional treatment?
New trauma, deep decay, or a loose, cracked or broken filling can cause new infection in your tooth. In some cases, the endodontist may discover additional very narrow or curved canals that could not be treated during the initial procedure.
Q. Will I feel pain during or after the procedure?
Our goal is to keep our patients as comfortable as possible. With modern techniques and anesthetics, most patients report that they are comfortable during the procedure. For the first few days after treatment, your tooth may feel sensitive, especially if there was pain or infection before the procedure. We typically recommend anti-inflammatory medications (like ibuprofen) for a few days after treatment. Your tooth may continue to feel slightly different from your other teeth for some time after your endodontic treatment is completed. However, if you have severe pain or pressure or pain that lasts more than a few days, please contact our office.
Q. Will the tooth need any special care or additional treatment after endodontic treatment?
You should chew or bite carefully on the treated tooth until you have had it restored and crowned by your dentist. The unrestored tooth is susceptible to fracture, so you should see your dentist for a full restoration and crown as soon as possible. Otherwise, you need only practice good oral hygiene, including brushing, flossing, and regular checkups and cleanings. Most endodontically treated teeth last as long as other natural teeth. In a few cases, a tooth that has undergone endodontic treatment does not heal or the pain continues. Occasionally, the tooth may become painful or diseased months or even years after successful treatment. Often when this occurs, redoing the endodontic procedure can save the tooth.
Q. How long does the root canal procedure take?
Most cases can be completed in one visit, although some complex procedures may require additional appointments. On average, root canal procedures last about an hour; however, they may last up to two hours.
Q. Can I go back to work or school after the root canal?
Q. When can I eat?
Patients should wait one hour before eating. Avoid any hard or chewy foods and try to eat on the opposite side of the mouth from that of the tooth treated until the protective restoration is placed by your general dentist.
Q. When can I drink?
Patients should avoid any hot liquids until the numbness is gone. Patients may drink cold liquids immediately after the procedure.
Q. Will someone need to drive me to and from my appointment?
No. We use local anesthesia to numb only the area we are working on.
Kellie Paxton, D.M.D., M.S., P.A.
202 Williamson Road – Suite 202
Mooresville, NC 28117