Root canals are needed for several dental problems. The primary reason for one is to be able to save the tooth, rather than make an extraction. Oftentimes a patient will experience pain before going to a dentist, and then the recommended procedure is a root canal. Root canal therapy, also called endodontic treatment, is given in several steps.
Why a Root Canal Is Necessary
A tooth has an outer layer of enamel and a layer of dentin underneath. In the middle of the tooth, there is pulp, which is soft. Inside the pulp are blood vessels and nerves.
The pulp can become infected, which is what causes the pain, but pain is not always present. Infection can be caused when the tooth becomes cracked or chipped, from multiple dental procedures, or when the gums are infected. A serious infection at the root tip can lead to an abscessed tooth. When that occurs, treatment is needed quickly because the infection can spread to the head, face, and neck, and it could even become fatal.
When you go to the dentist or endodontist (a specialist who saves teeth) for root canal therapy, the dentist will likely drill a hole in the crown. Then a drill will be used to remove the infected pulp and the nerve. Special root canal files will then be placed into the full length of the tooth of increasing sizes to remove debris and bacteria. Water will be used to clear it from the tooth. When this is completed, the next step is to sterilize the inside of the tooth.
Once that is finished, a rubber-like material called gutta percha is used to fill the empty space. This will help keep out all bacteria.
In some cases, when there is a deep infection, the rest of the root canal process will be completed another day. The gutta percha may not be installed, but the tooth may be temporarily filled and sealed.
When the process is to be completed, and the sealing material installed, the top of the tooth is then given a filling to seal it completely from the top. Sometimes, if the crown of the tooth is in bad shape, it may be removed and a new crown put in its place at a later date.
The Success Rate
Nearly all root canals are successful. Root canals have a 95 percent success rate, and they may last a lifetime. Occasionally, a tooth can become reinfected after a root canal. When this happens, the root canal may need to be repeated, or, in extreme cases, the tooth needs to be extracted.
The alternative to a root canal is an extraction, which will likely mean some bone loss afterward which could be as much as 50 percent. The missing tooth could be replaced by a dental implant, a bridge, or a partial denture.
If you need root canal therapy to keep an infected tooth, Dr. Rafael Lakhchakov can provide it in his Richmond Hill office in Queens, NY. He has successfully performed many root canals. In order to get more information or to set up an appointment, just call his office at (718) 262-0720.