Posts for tag: root canal
During this year's baseball spring training, Minnesota Twins center fielder Byron Buxton got into a row with a steak dinner—and the beefsteak got the better of it. During his meal, the Gold Glove winner cracked a tooth.
Fortunately, he didn't lose it. Buxton's dentist rescued the tooth with a dental procedure that's been around for over a century—a root canal treatment. The dependable root canal is responsible for saving millions of teeth each year.
Dentists turn to root canal treatments for a number of reasons: a permanent tooth's roots are dissolving (a condition called resorption); chronic inflammation of the innermost tooth pulp due to repeated fillings; or a fractured or cracked tooth, like Buxton's, in which the pulp becomes exposed to bacteria.
One of the biggest reasons, though, is advanced tooth decay. Triggered by acid, a by-product of bacteria, a tooth's enamel softens and erodes, allowing decay into the underlying dentin. In its initial stages, we can often treat decay with a filling. But if the decay continues to advance, it can infect the pulp and root canals and eventually reach the bone.
Decay of this magnitude seriously jeopardizes a tooth's survival. But we can still stop it before that point with a root canal. The basic procedure is fairly straightforward. We begin first by drilling a small hole into the tooth to access the inner pulp and root canals. Using special instruments, we then remove all of the infected tissue within the tooth.
After disinfecting the now empty spaces and reshaping the root canals, we fill the tooth with a rubber-like substance called gutta percha. This, along with filling the access hole, seals the tooth's interior from future infection. In most cases, we'll return sometime later and bond a life-like crown to the tooth (as Buxton's dentist did for him) for added protection and support.
You would think such a procedure would get its own ticker tape parade. Unfortunately, there's a cultural apprehension that root canals are painful. But here's the truth—because your tooth and surrounding gums are numbed by local anesthesia, a root canal procedure doesn't hurt. Actually, if your tooth has been throbbing from tooth decay's attack on its nerves, a root canal treatment will alleviate that pain.
After some time on the disabled list, Buxton was back in the lineup in time to hit his longest homer to date at 456 feet on the Twins' Opening Day. You may not have that kind of moment after a root canal, but repairing a bothersome tooth with this important procedure will certainly get you back on your feet again.
If you would like more information about root canal therapy, please contact us or schedule a consultation. To learn more, read the Dear Doctor magazine article “A Step-By-Step Guide to Root Canal Treatment.”
As a new permanent tooth develops, the roots undergo a process of breakdown and growth. As older cells dissolve (a process called resorption), they’re replaced by newer cells laid down (deposition) as the jaw develops. Once the jaw development ends in early adulthood, root resorption normally stops. It’s a concern, then, if it continues.
Abnormal root resorption most often begins outside of the tooth and works its way in, beginning usually around the neck-like (or cervical) region of the tooth. Also known as external cervical resorption (ECR), the condition usually shows first as pink spots where the enamel is being undermined. As these spots continue to erode, they develop into cavity-like areas.
While its causes haven’t been fully confirmed, ECR has been linked to excessive pressure on teeth during orthodontic treatment, periodontal ligament trauma, teeth-grinding or other excessive force habits, and bleaching techniques performed inside a tooth. Fortunately, ECR is a rare occurrence, and most people who’ve had these problems won’t experience it.
When it does occur, though, it must be treated as quickly as possible because the damage can progress swiftly. Treatment depends on the size and location of the resorption: a small site can often be treated by surgically accessing the tooth through the gum tissue and removing the offending tissue cells. This is often followed with tooth-colored dental material that’s bonded to the tooth to replace lost structure.
A root canal treatment may be necessary if the damage has extended to the pulp, the tooth’s interior. However, there’s a point where the resorption becomes too extensive to save the tooth. In these cases, it may be necessary to remove the tooth and replace it with a dental implant or similar tooth restoration.
In its early stages, ECR may be difficult to detect, and even in cases where it’s been diagnosed more advanced diagnostics like a CBCT scanner may be needed to gauge the extent of damage. In any case, it’s important that you have your teeth examined on a regular basis, at least twice a year. In the rare chance you’ve developed ECR, the quicker it’s found and treatment begun, the better your chances of preserving the tooth.
So you came in to the dental office for an exam, and now you’ve been told you need a root canal. But you’re wondering: Do I really have to do this? I’ve heard all sorts of things about the procedure. What if I wait a while — would that be so bad?
The answer is: It just might! Whenever we dentists recommend a root canal procedure, we have good reasons for doing so. Here are the top five reasons why you shouldn’t delay getting this important treatment.
- The tooth is infected and dying; a root canal stops the infection. While the outer layers of the tooth are hard, the inner pulp is made of soft, living tissue. This tissue sometimes becomes infected (through deep decay, cracks in the tooth surface, etc.), and begins to die. Once that happens, treatment is needed right away — to stop the pain, control the infection, and keep it from spreading.
- Root Canal Treatment Alleviates Pain. That’s right: Root canal treatment doesn’t cause pain — it relieves it. The procedure is relatively painless, despite the old stories you might have heard. In fact, it’s not unlike having a cavity treated, though it may take a little longer. So if you’re experiencing tooth pain (a major symptom in most cases of root canal trouble), remember that the sooner you get it treated, the sooner you’ll be pain-free.
- It won’t get better on its own… If you ignore some things, they will go away. Root canal problems aren’t one of those things. In some cases, if you wait long enough, the pain will go away. But that’s not a good sign, because the problem won’t go away on its own; it simply means that the nerves inside the tooth are all dead. The infection continues to smolder like glowing coals in a fire.
- …But it could get worse. Left untreated, bacteria from the infected tooth pulp can travel through the roots of the tooth and into the tissue of the gums and jaw. That can cause a painful, pus-filled abscess to form, which will require urgent treatment. In extreme cases, It can also result in increasing systemic (whole-body) inflammation, potentially putting you at risk for more serious conditions, like heart disease and stroke.
- Root Canal Treatment Can Save the Tooth. If you neglect treatment of a root canal problem long enough, you’re at serious risk for losing the infected tooth. And tooth loss, once it starts, can bring on a host of other problems — like an increased risk of tooth decay on remaining teeth, as well as gum disease, bite problems… and, as oral health problems escalate, even more tooth loss. Why put yourself at risk?
If you would like more information about root canal treatment, call our office for a consultation. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine articles “A Step-By-Step Guide To Root Canal Treatment” and “Tooth Pain? Don’t Wait!”