The root canal is a surgical procedure that is designed to remove infected tissue from the inside of the root. This tissue is made up of nerve tissue and blood vessels. The nerve can die from trauma like a blow to the tooth when your child jumps up to give you a hug and hits your tooth or from the bacteria from a cavity reaching the nerve. When the nerve dies it can do so with symptoms like spontaneous pain, pain to hot and cold, pain on biting, and sometimes it can die with no symptoms at all. When the nerve dies without pain, you may not know you have a problem until an abscess forms and that starts to hurt. Believe it or not, you can even get an abscess without pain and you might not know you have a problem until the dentist finds the abscess on an x-ray. Note: This is one of the reasons that a full mouth series of x-rays or a panorex x-ray is advised for all new patients and then periodically after that.
There are many many different techniques used to do a root canal but what they all basically have in common is that some type of root canal file is used in combination with different disinfection and cleaning solutions to remove as much of the infected nerve as possible. After the pulp debridement and root canal disinfection and cleansing is finished, materials are placed in the canal to seal the canal shut. In my office I use a combination of hand and machine files, ultrasonics, and several different solutions to clean and disinfect the canal space. I then seal the canals using a technique that puts less stress on the root than some other techniques and has a superior sealing ability. Basically, it is not the root canal technique I was taught in dental school!
One thing you should know and this is something I tell all my patients before doing a root canal, it is not possible to remove all the infected tissue from the canal system. It is not possible to sterilize the inside of the root. This means that the best any dentist can do is remove as much of the infect nerve tissue as possible and disinfect the inside of the tooth as much as possible. This is why I have changed the way I do root canals 6 times in my career. Studies do vary so the number I am about to give you may be different than other numbers. I can't quote the study as the following information was from an endodontist at a continuing education course that meets the ADA CERP standards. When done properly, root canals have about a 92% success rate. This means that the dentist can do everything right and the root canal may not work. Root canals are still worth trying because not only is 92% a good success rate, the alternative is to extract the tooth. Another thing you need to know is that a tooth abscess cannot be treated with antibiotics alone. Additionally, tooth abscess can become life threatening so if you have one you have to either get a root canal or tooth extraction!
Abbott Family Dentistry, LLC
1601 Abbott Road, Suite 102, Anchorage, AK 99507 US
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