Root canal therapies are dental procedures that work by targeting the center of the tooth, called the “pulp.” The pulp may be soft, but it’s filled with blood vessels, nerves and connective tissue that help your tooth grow. Once infections are removed we can do further treatment like white composite fillings and dental crowns to prevent missing teeth and tooth loss.
One survey found that 59% of people are afraid of treatment and 41% would rather swim with sharks than have a root canal. If you’re one of our patients, or potential patients, who are scared to have a root canal treatment, we’re going to try and ease your mind by explaining exactly what this dental procedure entails.
We use local anesthesia to ensure that your mouth is fully numb before the procedure begins. You might feel pressure, but you shouldn’t feel pain. We will always take a pre-operative X-ray to assess the root anatomy
When Do You Need a Root Canal Treatment with our Langley Dentist?
If decay is allowed to progress, well past the point of a cavity, you may have the pulp of your tooth become infected, inflamed or injured. As long as the “crown” of the structure of the tooth above your gums is structurally stable, it’s possible to remove the pulp. When we’re able to remove the pulp by itself, we’re able to save the remaining structure of the tooth, which is the best-case scenario. The pulp of the tooth can be damaged for a variety of reasons, including:
An untreated cavity is able to progress and deep decay occurs
Multiple dental procedures were performed on the tooth
Previous dental bridge placed
Irritation of pulp from veneer cement
Adjacent dental implant too close to root
Cracks or chips occur on the tooth that could of been prevented with a nightguard or Botox treatment
Wisdom tooth impaction
Injury to the tooth leads to the tooth being damaged
How is a Root Canal Performed?
Step 1: Preparation and Anesthetic at our Langley Clinic
Preparing you for the procedure with our family dentist requires a dental assistant to bring you into the treatment room. You'll sit down in one of our chairs, and a bib will be placed around your neck to protect against potential stains. Once the prep stage is over, we’ll move on to the anesthetic.
First, the dentist will apply numbing medication on the gums surrounding the tooth. The numbing agent will take a few minutes to work and will be followed by an injection of a local anesthetic that is injected into the gum. The needle used will look scary to some patients and you may feel a warm sensation or sharp pinch, but within seconds, it’s all over.
In a few minutes, your gums surrounding the tooth and the tooth will be numb. We'll make sure that you don’t feel pain and are fully numb before we begin working on your tooth. Sometimes, we may need to inject more anesthetic because the infection impacts the effectiveness of the dental anesthesia. If dental anxiety is a concern we offer sedation dentistry to enhance your comfort during the procedure.
Step 2: Removing Your Tooth’s Pulp during a Root Canal
Once numb, we’ll make a small opening on the top of the tooth to try and expose the pulp that is damaged or infected. The dentist will remove the pulp and also clean all of the pathways, or canals, which are in the tooth with a file.
Step 3: Sealing the Canals
Your root canal isn’t over just yet. We'll need to clean, disinfect and then fill and seal the tooth. Sealing ensures that the area we just cleaned inside of the tooth remains free of saliva. A dental paste and material that is similar to rubber will seal the tooth. Depending on if the tooth is infected or not, we may prescribe antibiotics to ensure that the infection is cleared fully. For a lot of our patients, antibiotics aren’t required after the treatment.
Step 4: Placing a Filling After Root Canal Procedures
Finally, a temporary or final filling will be placed at the top of the tooth where the pulp was removed. The filling will be either temporary or permanent and will stop food particles from filling the hole left in the tooth.
Sometimes, primarily in the case of back teeth, we’ll put a permanent dental crown on the tooth rather than fill in the hole as a structural solution or a cosmetic dentistry solution. The dental crown will be more realistic in both appearance and function. Since you chew primarily with your back teeth, the dental crown adds an additional layer of protection to the tooth against fracture.
What Happens After Root Canal Procedures?
You’ve just underwent a major dental procedure, so it’s perfectly normal for your tooth and gums to feel sore when the anesthetic wears off. The gums may be swollen, and if you do have discomfort or swelling, we’ll often recommend that you take Advil or Tylenol to alleviate your symptoms.
There are times, however, when we recommend coming into our Langley dental office. You'll want to seek help if your pain or discomfort don’t start to subside. Every day after the procedure, you should feel a little less pain until you feel normal again.
If you’re not experiencing relief, give us a call and we’ll schedule a dental appointment with you. There are some cases when recurring pain means that additional dental retreatments need to be performed. Often times, these sessions will be required in only the most severe cases. You may even come into our office, and we may find that a temporary pain reliever is all that you need to find relief.
A few key points to remember are:
Pain should last only for a few days and be mild
Practice good dental hygiene
Call us if your pain lasts longer than three days
You'll want to avoid chewing on the tooth until a crown has been placed on the top of it or it has been permanently filed. We recommend that you resume normal activities as early as the next day after the procedure. A few tips to ensuring that your root canal is a success are:
Avoid eating on the side of the mouth where you had the root canal
Avoid eating hard foods while the tooth heals
Brush your teeth twice daily
Floss your teeth at least once a day
Reduce drinking sugary drinks or eating sugary foods
Continue coming into our office for routine dental cleanings
If you tooth begins to discolor we may need to do some internal tooth whitening
Being aware we can still move your tooth with Invisalign even if it has been root canaled
If you follow this basic advice, you’ll be able to enjoy a successful root canal.
Root Canal Retreatment and Risks
Root canals are a serious procedure that is our last effort to save your tooth. We may begin the root canal and find that the damage is too intense or that the remaining structure is frail. In this scenario, we may need to remove the tooth completely and use one of our other services to replace the tooth.
In some situations, the original root canal treatment can fail and require another procedure to re-clean the root structure to remove all remnants of nerve tissue or infection with a root canal retreatment. In cases where antibiotics aren’t successful, an abscess can form because the infection is left behind.
Can a Root Canal Cause Cancer?
Root canal treatment has a stigma of being overly painful and makes many people scared to come into the dental office. Often times, you can avoid having a root canal by treating cavities early on and maintaining proper dental hygiene. Weston Price, a dentist from the 1920s, circulated a myth that root canal treatment caused cancer.
While at the time, the public was shocked by his findings, researchers have since disproven these myths and found that Price’s tests were inaccurate and flawed. Price believed that a root canal still allowed for toxins to form in the tooth. He believed that these toxins could lead to a variety of health problems, including:
Our Thoughts on Price’s Root Canal Myth
We know, with today’s research, that Price’s theory was incorrect. Sadly, many people are still afraid that root canals cause cancer because of this very myth. The error on Price’s part is that his studies were very flawed and unreliable.
The main reasons why Price’s “evidence” should be ignored are:
He was never able to control the conditions of the experiment
All tests that he performed were in environments that weren’t sterile
Researchers have since tried to replicate his studies and have been unable to do so
There are still some in the community that believe there’s a conspiracy among dental professionals who want to hide the fact that root canals cause cancer. The main issue is that there have been no peer reviews, at least up until the time this article was written, that can link root canals and cancer. Still, the myth is alive and well.
People claim they had a root canal and now have cancer. The issue is that they’re not considering other factors, such as lifestyle, smoking, exposure to chemicals and environment. Sealants keep the canals of the tooth clean. Furthermore, there have been studies done that show that teeth that aren’t properly treated and become infected can lead to many serious health conditions.
It's always better to have major dental procedures performed when necessary than to allow the tooth to become infected or damaged further.
Unnecessary Fears Surrounding Root Canals
If you’re afraid that a root canal can cause other health issues, you’ll be happy to know that your fears are unfounded. There has been no evidence connecting health issues to root canals. We recommend that if you need a root canal, book an appointment to talk to our Langley dentist about your concerns. We're more than happy to walk you through the entire procedure, risks and recovery and its role in the overall cosmetics of your smile.
We'll also listen to any concerns that you have and provide our honest, educated advice on the topic. In 99.99% of cases, we’re able to relieve the undue stress that you’re experiencing. Our patients are often more than happy to be able to save their existing tooth with a root canal. The root canal will stop the remaining teeth from moving out of place and help you maintain your bite.
When it comes to eating, a root canal makes it easier and more natural to chew and eat rather than having the tooth extracted. Thanks to the advancements in endodontic treatment, we’re able to provide root canal procedures that are:
Root canals are routine procedures, and while they can certainly be scary at first, we will make sure that the tooth is numb and the anesthetic kicks in fully before beginning. Pain is mild, and for most of our patients, Advil or Tylenol is all that’s required to alleviate discomfort.