• 21 AUG 18
    • 0

    Do You Really Need a Root Canal?

    Woman that is frowning and holding her face due to a toothache.

    A root canal is a procedure that is done to save a patient’s natural tooth when there are no other options left besides removing it. When a tooth is badly damaged or decayed, the last resort is to perform a root canal. This is when the infected tooth is completely cleaned from infection and decay all the way down to the root. Find out how this process works and if you really need a root canal for your tooth decay or not!


    Tooth Decay 101

    Studies show that at least 92% of Americans have had tooth decay sometime during their life. You know tooth decay by its other name of “cavities”. When you eat, some of your mouth bacteria start to break down your food for digestion. Other mouth bacteria mixes with sugar in your food to create plaque. Plaque is a sticky, clear substance that sits on your teeth.


    You can’t simply wash it down with water either. Because plaque is acidic, when it sits on your teeth, it erodes away your tooth enamel over time. The teeth are incredibly tough, but over time, they will start to wear away. This is decay happening. If plaque can get through the first layer of your tooth enamel, it will hit the dentin and then the center of the tooth with nerves. When decay gets to that stage, you may start to feel a toothache that gets worse over time. The area may grow warm and inflamed as well. That is a sign that you have severe decay that may require a root canal.


    Dental x-rays of a root canal.

    Root Canal Treatment

    The American Dental Association recommends visiting the dentist at least twice a year for comprehensive exams and dental cleanings. If you do this, we can catch decay when it is very small and when it won’t cause you internal infections. However, tooth decay that becomes severe will have to be removed completely or you will lose your entire tooth. That is when we would do a root canal procedure.


    Root canals—or the practice of doing them—are referred to as “endodontics”. The American Association of Endodontists state that “all endodontists are dentists”, but less than 3% of all dentists have been trained in endodontics. Dentists who do this procedure have to go to 2 or more years of schooling after dental school. However, dentists also perform root canals, they just do it a couple of times a week instead of full time. On any given day, there are about 41,000 root canals being done in the United States. That indicates quite a lot of people that have severe tooth decay! There are ways you can know if you have a bad case of decay.


    Are You Having These Symptoms?

    When a tooth is in need of a root canal, there are some signs and symptoms that you can lookout for with your dental health. Take notice if you experience symptoms such as:

    • Sharp pains or tooth sensitivity when you chew food or firmly close down on your teeth
    • Steady throbbing or burning pain in a tooth or area of your mouth
    • Swelling and tenderness in the nearby gums
    • A persistent or recurring pimple on the gums
    • Discoloration of the tooth, which is generally a darkening of the tooth
    • Sensitivities to temperature, especially to hot or cold foods and drinks


    These are all signs of decay in a tooth. When decay is not the problem, then you are likely dealing with a tooth injury (such as a cracked or fractured tooth) that has been infected. Either way, you may still need a root canal. Root canal treatment is needed when:

    • A single tooth has undergone multiple procedures, such as cavity fillings or crown replacements.
    • Deep cavities break into the pulp, causing bacterial infections of exposed pulp.
    • Internal tooth injuries are present that are not apparent on the surface.
    • Cracks, major chips and other breaks occur in the structure of the tooth.


    Dentist performing a root canal procedure.

    What the Procedure Looks Like

    With cavities, the area of decay is simply removed and filled with composite material. However, with a root canal treatment, the entire tooth must be cleaned out to avoid decay of the entire tooth structure. Patients will definitely need a root canal when the pulp (center nerve part) of the tooth is infected with disease or exposed by injury. The bacteria that can get in there can destroy the rest of the tooth and infection can eventually seep into your bloodstream, causing severe illness. That is why you never want to ignore your tooth pain.


    During your procedure, Dr. Evanson will open up the top of your tooth with dental tools. She will then work meticulously to remove all decayed parts of your tooth as well as infection. This is the part that takes time, because she has to clean all the way down through the roots of the tooth. No infection can be left or the tooth will continue to decay. Using small root canal brushes, decay can be removed from the small tooth roots. The entire tooth is then filled with composite material to keep the structure of the tooth, and then it is sealed off at the top. A root canal will remove everything from the tooth except for the healthy pulp that is still there.


    Getting Your Root Canal

    A root canal is the last option we take before removing a tooth and making a dental implant for a patient. It is possible to keep a tooth healthy for many years and to keep your natural tooth if you opt for a root canal procedure. It is more cost-effective for you than having to have a tooth removed and receiving a dental implant and crown. In many cases, the root canal saves a tooth and you heal within the first few days. If you have tooth pain or are in need of your dental exam, call Dr. Evanson’s office at (720) 409-0008!

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