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Frequently Asked Questions

Nothing is as good as a your natural tooth! A root canal is one of the most common dental procedures performed, well over 16 million every year. Sometimes your natural tooth may need a root canal (endodontic) treatment for it to remain a healthy part of your mouth.

Most patients report that having root canal treatment today, is as unremarkable as having a cavity filled. If you have been told you need a root canal treatment, you can find the answers to your questions here.

What is an Endodontist?

An endodontist is a dentist with special training in diagnosing and treating problems associated with the inside of the tooth. They do only endodontic procedures in the practices because they are specialists. To become 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 re-treatment of previous root canals that have not healed completely, as well as endodontic surgery. Endodontists may use advanced technology, such as operating microscopes, ultrasonics and digital imaging, to perform these special services. Endodontist are also experienced at finding the cause of oral and facial pain that has been difficult to diagnose.

Who performs Endodontic Treatment?

An endodontist is a dentist with special training in diagnosing and treating problems associated with the inside of the tooth. They do only endodontic procedures in their practices because they are specialists. To become 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 re-treatment of previous root canals that have not healed completely, as well as endodontic surgery. Endodontists use advanced technology, such as operating microscopes, ultrasonics and digital imaging, to perform these special services. Endodontist are also experienced at finding the cause of oral and facial pain that has been difficult to diagnose.

Why would I need Endodontic Treatment?

Endodontic treatment is neccessary 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.

What are the signs of needing an Endodontic Treatment?

Most people who have had a previous root canal can recognize the signs and symptoms that would necessitate Endodontic Treatment.

Signs to look for include pain, prolonged sensitivity to heat or cold, tenderness to touch and chewing, discoloration of the tooth, and swelling, drainage and tenderness in the lymph nodes as well as nearby bone and gingival tissues. Sometimes, however, there are no symptoms. Endodontic pathology is often noted on routine radiographic examaintions by your General Dentist, at tha time a referral is made to the Endodontist.

How does an Endodontic procedure save a 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 crown or other restoration on the tooth to protect and restore it to full function. After restoration, the tooth continues to function like any other tooth.

Will I feel pain during or after the procedure?

Many endodontic procedures are performed to relieve the pain of toothaches caused by pulp inflammation or infection. With modern techniques and anesthetics, most patients report that they are comfortable during the procedure. We have a strict protocol that is followed to ensure a pleasant and pain free experience while under our care.

During the first few days after treatment, your tooth may feel sensitive, especially if there was pain or infection before the procedure. This discomfort can be relieved with over-the-counter or prescription medication. Please follow our post-operative instructions which are given to all patients following treatment and also available on our website.

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 give us a call as it would be our pleasure to discuss your case.

How much will the procedure cost?

The cost varies depending on how complex the problem is and which tooth is affected. Molars are more difficult to treat and the fee is usually more. Endodontic treatment and restoration of the natural tooth are less expensive than the alternative of having the tooth extracted. An extracted tooth must be replaced with a bridge or implant to restore chewing function and prevent adjacent teeth from shifting. These procedures tend to cost significantly more than endodontic treatment and an appropriate restoration. With root canal treatment you save your natural teeth and money.

Will the tooth need additional treatment following Endodontic therapy?

You should not chew or bite on the treated tooth until you have had it restored by your dentist. The unrestored tooth is susceptible to fracture, so you should see your dentist for a full coronal restoration as soon as possible, typically 2 weeks from the completion of the endodontic therapy. 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.

Can all teeth be treated Endodontically?

Most teeth can be treated. Occasionally, a tooth cannot be saved because the root canals are not accessible, the root is severely fractured, the tooth does not 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.

What should I except following Endodontic therapy?

The root canal system inside your tooth has been thoroughly cleaned, and the irritated tissue and bacteria that have caused you to need root canal treatment are gone.

It is normal to feel some tenderness in the area over the next few days as your body undergoes the natural healing process. You may also feel some tenderness in your jaw from keeping it open for an extended period of time. These symptoms are temporary and usually respond very well to over-the-counter pain medications. It is important for you to follow the provided post-operative instructions on how to take these medications. Remember that narcotic medications, if prescribed, may make you drowsy, and caution should be exercised in operating dangerous machinery or driving a car after taking them.

Your tooth may continue to fell slightly different from your other teeth for some time after your root canal treatment has been completed. However, if you have severe pain or pressure that lasts more than a few days, contact us.

Taking care of your tooth

Root canal treatment is only one step in returning your tooth to full function. A proper final restoration of the tooth is extremely important in ensuring long-term success.

Contact your dentist within two weeks to arrange your next appointment. If your tooth is being treated in more than one visit by us, do not return to your dentist for the final restoration until the root canal treatment is completed.

Myth I-" Root Canal Treatment is Painful."

Most patients see their Endodontist when they have a severe toothache. The toothache can be caused by damaged tissues in the tooth. Root canal treatment removes this damaged tissue from the tooth, thereby relieving the pain you feel.

The perception of root canals being painful began decades ago when root canal treatment was indeed painful. But with the latest technologies and anesthetics, root canal treatment today is no more uncomfortable than having a filling placed. In fact, a recent survey showed that patients who have experienced root canal treatment are six times more likely to describe it as “painless” than patients who have not had root canal treatments. Also our pateints routinly report, "wow that was easier than getting a filling."

Myth II- " A good alternative to root canal treatment is extraction, pulling the tooth."

Saving your natural teeth, if possible, is the very best option.

Nothing can completely replace your natural tooth. An artificial tooth can sometimes cause you to avoid certain foods. Keeping your own teeth is important so that you can continue to enjoy the wide variety of foods necessary to maintain the proper nutrient balance in your diet.

Endodontic treatment, along with an appropriate restoration, is a cost-effective way to treat teeth with damaged pulp and is usually less expensive than extraction and placement of a bridge or an dental implant. Endodontic treatment in our office, when appropriately restored within 2 weeks following the completion of the root canal procedure, has a very high success rate (96% @ 8 years post operative). Many root canal treated teeth last a lifetime.

Placement of a bridge or an implant will require significantly more time in treatment and may result in further procedures to adjacent teeth and supporting tissues.

It is always prudent to a have a tooth evaluted by an Endodontist prior to extraction. They have the expertise and training to determine if a tooth can be saved with an Endodontic Procedure-non-surgical endodontic treatment, re-treatment or surgical endodontic treatment.



Marc Bowers DMD PA 2014