Root Canal Therapy (Endodontics)


Our teeth have several layers that serve different purposes. The inner most layer of the tooth that houses all the nerves and blood vessels of the teeth is called the pulp of the tooth. The pulp is alive and once the decay producing bacteria slips into the layers of the tooth and makes its way to the pulp, it creates inflammation that causes pain and discomfort. This is when the tooth may need root canal therapy, or endodontics.

If the decay slips into the pulp, or if there is enduring trauma to the pulp, this can also create the same effect, such as inflammation or death of the pulp that will require endodontic therapy and intervention.

A root canal, or endodontic treatment, is a dental procedure that involves removing the damaged pulp before filling and sealing the tooth. This type of dental treatment should be performed by a dental specialist called an endodontist.

When is Root Canal Therapy Necessary?

You may need a root canal if you have a cracked or broken tooth, or if you have an abnormally large cavity in a tooth. The pulp of your tooth can also become damaged and infected if you have had repeated dental procedures on the same tooth, or if your tooth was injured, even if cracks or chips aren’t visible.

When the pulp of your tooth inside the root becomes inflamed or infected, you may experience a lot of pain. Other signs that you may need a root canal include increased sensitivity to hot or cold food, a tooth that is tender to the touch or painful when you bite on it, discoloration of the tooth, swelling, drainage, and more. While most patients experience some or all of these symptoms, in some cases there are no outward signs that you need a root canal.

At the last stages of inflammation, the patient may find a drainage bump on the corresponding tooth gum area called fistula. Fistula is the body trying to relieve the inflammation by pushing the infection out of the gum line and not completely cleaning it, but trying to make room and communicate with outside the pulp.

Understanding Root Canal Treatment

In most cases, root canal treatment can be accomplished in just one or two visits to your endodontist’s office. The course of the treatment is determined by the amount of infection present and if there is too much infection, the endodontist may prescribe some antibiotics to lessen the infection level before working on the tooth.

In the first visit, your dentist will examine your tooth and will administer a topical (local) anesthetic to numb the affected area. Then, a protective cover made of plastic, known as a dental dam, helps isolate the tooth in the mouth. There may be a need for shaving down and locating the pulp of the tooth followed by looking for the canals of the tooth that are housed in the pulp. Your endodontist will then use tiny instruments to clean out the infected material from the tooth’s canal, disinfect, and measure to make sure the length is accurate. During all these steps X-rays will be taken to reassure the quality and correctness of the treatment. He or she will then fill the chamber with a rubber-like material. At the end of the first visit, a temporary filling will be used to close the tooth. If the infection is not so severe to require a second visit, the endodontist can finish the entire root canal and will temporize the tooth and send back to the restorative dentist.

In case there is a need for a second visit, the temporary filling will be removed, the last steps will be completed and then the temporary filling will be placed on the top chamber of the tooth (on top of the permanent filling of the canals). In some cases, it may be necessary to also insert a small post in the core of the tooth and help create retention and surface area to build up a core for the hollowed out tooth followed up with a crown on the tooth. While you will need to continue to take care of your teeth, the crown is designed to be durable and strong, so you should be able to use your teeth as you normally would, without fear of breaking the crown.

Choose Buckhead Cosmetic and Family Dentistry for Root Canal Treatment

While they still have a bad reputation, modern endodontics and root canals have come a long way. There’s no need to live with the pain of a cracked or chipped tooth. It’s important to get any infection treated as quickly as possible. To learn more and to schedule an appointment for a root canal, contact us today.