So your dentist gives you the news. One of your teeth has been damaged and it looks like you’ll need to undergo a root canal.
Your first reaction might be to think about the costs and potential discomfort associated with this procedure. But it’s important to keep in mind that, left untreated, the infected tooth will cause more trouble, pain, and related expenses down the road. The best tactic is to treat it now and preserve your natural tooth.
Saving the tooth is always the preferred outcome of any endodontic procedure – rather than pulling it and replacing it with an implant or bridge. That’s why a root canal is the best option – since it removes the infection while salvaging the tooth itself.
Eliminating the infection is important because untreated it could spread into the bone and weaken its support of your tooth, causing you to lose it.
The good news is, endodontic techniques have improved drastically over the last several decades. Most of the discomfort comes from the infection itself, not the treatment, which is designed to alleviate pain. We generally use local anesthetics during the procedure and prescribe an OTC or other pain killer depending on the individual case. But any post-procedure discomfort is generally mild and not long-lasting.
The important thing is to not put off treatment because of unfounded fears or concerns. Discuss your options with your dentist and then have them recommend an endodontist that they have a relationship with. Dentists and endodontist act as a team when it comes to supporting your overall oral health.
When you first visit an endodontist, ask them what your options are and to confirm your regular dentist’s original diagnosis. Because they are a specialist in this field, endodontists can often provide treatment options your dentist just wasn’t aware of.
What can you expect from a typical root canal procedure?
Root canal therapy is done in three steps, and it takes between one and three sessions to complete.
1. Cleaning and removing diseased and dead pulp
While the patient is under local anesthesia, the endodontist drills a small hole into the infected tooth’s enamel, using very fine tools to extract diseased and dead pulp tissue.
2. Treating the root canal itself
After cleaning, shaping, and disinfecting the drilled-out area, the endodontist fills it with a rubber-like filling coated with adhesive cement. A temporary filling is then placed in the opening in the tooth and you will then be referred back to your dentist.
3. Finishing off with a crown or filling by your general dentist
A crown or filling is generally employed since the affected tooth is in a fragile state. A crown or filling will finish off the procedure and you’ll soon be back to your normal self.
Gone are the days when the root canal was a long, drawn-out procedure. Today, most root canals can be completed with one to three visits, only requiring more visits in extreme cases or if the infection re-appears.
The best thing to do when you’re told you need a root canal is to talk candidly about your concerns with your dentist and then with your endodontist. This way you can get a clear picture of today’s procedures and growing list of treatment options.