So, your general dentist has referred you to an endodontist for root canal treatment. What should you expect now? If you have never had a root canal or had one completed many years ago you may have some questions. Hopefully this guide will help answer your questions and dispel your fears.
All dentists receive training to do endodontic treatment. An endodontist is a dentist who has gone on to receive two or more years of advanced training to perform root canals. They treat simple and complex cases. This includes calcified canals, Endodontic Retreatments, and endodontic surgery. They are also trained to diagnose oral-facial pain which can be difficult to do.
“Endodontic” is derived from the Greek meaning “inside the tooth”. An Endodontist treats the nerve inside the tooth. During the procedure the roots are not removed but remain intact.
You may ask, “Why do I need this treatment?” Root canals become necessary when the nerve, or pulp tissue, becomes inflamed, infected or dies. If the tooth is not treated it will lead to pain and eventually an abscess. This can be caused by deep decay, repeated dental procedures, or a chip or crack in the tooth. Trauma or a blow to the tooth can also cause this.
You may ask, “Will I feel pain during the procedure?” With the use of modern anesthetics and techniques the majority of patients are comfortable during the treatment. You should remember each person and tooth is different. Teeth that are very inflamed or have infections are more difficult to anesthetize and keep numb throughout the appointment.
After the procedure the tooth will usually be sore to chewing for one to three days. This should lessen each day until it returns to a normal feeling. At the end of your appointment Dr. Semashko will discuss pain medications to use during this time. Our office or Dr. Semashko will also do a 24 hour follow up to make sure you are not experiencing any unusual problems.
You may ask, “What’s involved in doing a root canal?” After reviewing your medical history Dr. Semashko will discuss your symptoms and history of the problem. Most likely an x-ray and tests will be required to determine the tooth causing the problem. At this point the doctor will discuss your treatment options. If you decide to have the root canal treatment a local anesthetic will be administered. After the tooth is numb a rubber latex dam is placed on the tooth. This prevents anything from falling in your mouth and saliva from leaking into the tooth as it is treated. If you are allergic to latex a non-latex dam is available.
After the tooth is isolated an access opening is made through the tooth or crown. On posterior (back) teeth this is done through the biting surface. On anterior (front) teeth this is done through the back of the tooth, the front of the tooth will look the same as when you arrived. A series of instruments are used to remove the pulp tissue and to shape the canals.
Once the canals are cleaned and shaped the doctor obturates (fills) each canal with gutta percha and sealer (a cement). Gutta percha is a biocompatible material the body does not react to. A temporary filling is placed in the access opening at the completion of the treatment. This will be removed by your restorative dentist when the tooth is restored.
You must return to your restorative dentist to have the tooth restored. This may simply involve placing a filling in the access opening. It may also involve placing a crown (cap) on the tooth. This will usually depend on how much natural tooth is remaining and where the tooth is located. Our office will follow-up the treated tooth in one year at no charge to evaluate the healing.
Endodontic treatment is highly successful. There are however differences in success depending on the condition of the nerve at the start of the treatment. Dr. Semashko will gladly discuss this with you.