Root Canal Awareness week is now. The American Association of Endodontists reports that an average of 15 million root canals are performed each year in the United States. A root canal procedure is not the same as simply getting a cavity removed. It is much more extensive because a root canal is only done when severe tooth decay spreads through a tooth and infects the living tissues. Find out why we would do a root canal procedure, how it’s done and simple ways to avoid decay from happening in the first place!
Be Aware of Tooth Decay
The month of May is “Save Your Tooth” month. The second week of May is devoted to Root Canal Awareness. Not enough patients realize that severe tooth decay leads to permanent tooth loss, nor do they know the signs of severe decay until it gets to that tooth-loss point. 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, it erodes your tooth enamel as it sits on your teeth. Over time, acid wears away tooth enamel, creating dead areas of the tooth and craters. This is tooth decay.
If plaque can get through the first layer of your tooth enamel, it will hit the dentin layer and then the center of the tooth with nerves and soft tissue. When decay reaches that far, it creates infection and tooth pain that worsens without treatment. The area may also grow warm and inflamed. This is a sign that you have severe decay, possibly requiring a root canal.
Tooth Decay Facts
- Decay can happen as soon as the first tooth appears in the mouth.
- Cavities can cause tooth erosion, craters in the teeth, sensitivity in the teeth, toothaches, infections, abscesses, discoloration and tooth loss. Severe cavities will turn the teeth gray, then black, especially in the baby teeth.
- 42% of children 11 and under have cavities. 28% of those 5 and under have cavities and 51% of 6-11 year-olds have cavities. The rate of untreated tooth decay in this age group is between 20% and 24%.
- 59% of 12 to 18 year-olds have had cavities, with about 20% of those cases being untreated.
- By adulthood, about 92% of people have had cavities. This is especially true of people between 20 and 64 years old.
- Severe decay leads to complete tooth loss without dental intervention services such as root canals.
Root Canals 101
For cavities that are on the surface or those that haven’t reached your tooth’s soft tissues, we can drill out the dead areas. We then fill the area with composite resin (tooth replacement material) at your dental appointment. However, if you’re coming in with tooth pain, odds are that infection has reached your tooth root and you must get that infection removed as soon as possible. Many patients that experience pain, swelling, redness and heat around a tooth may need a root canal.
Performing root canals is 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. In a year, that’s about 15 million root canals, or treatments to remove decay in the tooth center and the roots.
A root canal is different than a cavity filling or a cavity removal. This is because decay has spread to your nerves, blood vessels and tooth center where soft tissues lie instead of simply affecting the hard mineral parts of your teeth. That center decays and infections can start to spread to your bloodstream, which can be very serious to your health. The way to fix that infection and the severe decay without removing your entire tooth is to perform a root canal.
During and After Your Root Canal
It’s always better to get root canals than tooth extractions. With root canals, we clean your teeth completely from infection and decay, but you keep much of your natural tooth. Root canals fall into the step between cavity fillings and pulling your tooth out. Some patients have same-day root canals for severe pain and symptoms. Others will have their exam and will return as soon as possible to have the infection removed.
Your root canal procedure will begin with a thorough evaluation and x-ray session. We then treat your mouth with local anesthesia to ensure you optimum comfort. A rubber dam will be placed over the tooth to isolate it during treatment. Dr. Evanson will then painlessly drill a small hole in the wall of your tooth. With this, she is able to extract the infected tissue, nerves and pulp. After the problem materials are extracted from your tooth, the canals of the tooth are cleaned and flushed with a sterilizing solution prior to being sealed off. On a later visit, Dr. Evanson will then fill the empty root canal with a rubber compound called “gutta percha” and will add an onlay or inlay to the tooth followed by a dental crown to protect the enamel.
Patients experience numbness for hours or possibly all day after this procedure. However, the numbness will go away and you will be able to use your natural tooth to eat. If you have tooth pain or are in need of your dental exam, call Dr. Evanson’s office at (720) 409-0008!Leave a reply →