Root Canal Therapy

What is a Root Canal and why do I need one?

Root Canal Therapy is the removal of the pulpal tissue from inside the root of a tooth and replaced with a filling material.  The pulpal tissue is the vital part of a tooth.  It’s the part with nerves, blood vessels, and other various cell types.  The main reason someone needs a root canal is that either decay has reached the pulp of the tooth or the tooth has died and formed an abscess.  If the pulp tissue gets infected, it swells and can be very painful.  By completing a root canal, the tooth no longer has a nerve or a space for bacteria to occupy which eliminates pain and infection.

Is a root canal painful because I’ve heard….?

Sometimes just hearing the words “Root Canal” make people uneasy.  The reality is, most root canals are case by case dependent.  If a root canal is completed before a tooth becomes unbearably painful, due to deep decay, then it is usually only slightly uncomfortable.  If the tooth is necrotic (dead) it is also usually uneventful.  However, sometimes antibiotics are appropriate if there is an abscess present, these can help reduce discomfort following the procedure.  Teeth that have become extremely painful to just about everything are sometimes the ones that give root canal therapy its bad reputation.  Usually, we are able to achieve substantial numbness and eliminate the severe pain.

Can a tooth still hurt following a root canal?

A tooth should not hurt after a root canal is completed since the nerve has been removed.  So, changes in temperature or sweet foods should not cause the tooth to hurt.  However, there are still nerve fibers surrounding the tooth root in the ligament space next to the bone.  If this space is swollen, possibly due to a crack or crown that contacts prematurely, the tooth can hurt to chewing forces.  If this is the situation, let Dr. Parks know and he will further investigate the cause of the pain.

If I have a cap, does that mean I also have a root canal?

No, sometimes a cap, also know as a crown, will be completed because the tooth has a large filling which is starting to fail, or the tooth is displaying signs of cracking.  With this said, if a back tooth receives a root canal, then almost always, it will have a crown placed on it to protect the tooth from splitting and ensuring success of the root canal.  If a front tooth receives a root canal it may or may not need a crown depending on various factors, which Dr. Parks can discuss with you.

How successful are they and how long do they last?

Root canals typically are very successful.  Some people will have a root canal that last their entire life.  Unfortunately, for some people root canal therapy just doesn’t seem to work.  In either situation, only time will tell.  Not all teeth are created equal, some root canals are harder and some easier and it varies from patient to patient.  Sometimes these factors can affect the longevity of the root canal.

What are some of my options if I don’t want a root canal?

It depends on the scenario, but if the tooth is painful or infected the other treatment option is an extraction.  If the tooth has very deep decay but is not painful, a “deep” filling can sometimes be placed with the use of extra medicine to try and restore the tooth.  Sometimes this option works, and sometimes it doesn’t.  In these situations, if Dr. Parks believes the tooth will become painful, he will recommend root canal treatment instead of a deep filling.  On the other hand, if the removal of decay is more shallow than expected, he will recommend a filling.  However, if the decay reaches the pulp during decay removal, then the patient must decide whether they would like to proceed with the root canal or the extraction.  Dr. Parks is happy to discuss the various options available for the replacement of extracted teeth.