Endodontic (root canal) treatment treats the inside of the tooth. Endodontic treatment is necessary when the pulp becomes inflamed or infected. The inflammation or infection can have a variety of causes: deep decay, repeated dental procedures on the tooth, faulty crowns, or a crack or chip in the tooth. In addition, trauma 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.
During root canal treatment, the inflamed or infected pulp is removed and the inside of the tooth is carefully cleaned and disinfected, then filled and sealed with a rubber-like material called gutta-percha. Afterward, the tooth is restored with a crown or filling for protection. After restoration, the tooth continues to function like any other tooth.
There has been controversy with root canals being a long-term source of microbial infection that can affect overall health. As a biological dentist, we used updated and modern techniques (ozone and laser treatments) with root canals to effectively minimize microbial infection. In some cases, it is better to remove the tooth instead of performing a root canal.
Today, getting root canal treatment is often no more uncomfortable than having a filling. In fact, root canal treatment doesn’t cause pain but actually relieves it. Advances have made the treatment a virtually pain-free experience, many times accomplished in a single visit.
With modern techniques and anesthetics, the vast majority of patients report that they are comfortable during the procedure.
Some patients may experience tooth pain initially and then it goes away on its own or with the help of antibiotics. Just because it has stopped hurting doesn’t mean it is no longer infected. Root canal treatment is designed to disinfect the inside of the tooth (the source of infection) and stop the spread of infection.
Sometimes removing a tooth instead of saving a tooth with root canal treatment can create a cascade of other long-term negative health + body effects such as loss of function (chewing), loss of other teeth (e.g. loss of a bridge), and imbalances in the bite + jaw which can cause TMJ/TMD or postural pain.
Some patients may never experience pain with an infected tooth. In fact, root canal infection is often discovered through routine radiographs and/or clinical examination. The tooth may have a chronic infection that the body has accommodated enough to not have gone beyond the patient’s pain threshold.
The amount of time a procedure takes depends on the details of the procedure you’re having and the type of tooth involved. We estimate your time in the office to last approximately 1-2 hours. The treatment itself can often be completed in one visit. At times, a second appointment may be needed.