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Root Canals

Dental Health and Root Canals

In the past, if you had a tooth with a diseased nerve, you would probably lose that tooth. Today, with a special dental procedure called root canal treatment, your tooth can be saved. Root canals are a relatively simple procedure involving one to three office visits. Best of all, having a root canal when necessary can save your tooth and your smile! Dr. Moulton can perform root canals on simple cases, such as anterior teeth that have only one root, but will likely refer you to an endodontist specialist for root canal treatment on a more involved case, such as a large molar.

What is the purpose of a root canal?

A tooth's nerve is not vitally important to a tooth's health and function after the tooth has emerged through the gums. Its only function is sensory – to provide the sensation of hot or cold. The presence or absence of a nerve will not affect the day-to-day functioning of the tooth.

When a tooth is cracked or has a deep cavity, bacteria can enter the pulp tissue and germs can cause an infection inside the tooth. If left untreated, an abscess may form. If the infected tissue is not removed, pain and swelling can result. Without the proper treatment, your tooth may have to be removed.

What are the signs that a root canal is needed?

Teeth that require root canal therapy are not always painful. However, signs you may need a root canal include severe toothache, pain upon chewing or application of pressure, prolonged sensitivity or pain in response to hot and cold temperatures, a dark discoloration of the tooth, and swelling and tenderness in the nearby gums. If you experience any of these symptoms, contact your doctor.

What happens during a root canal?

Root canal treatment involves one to three visits. During treatment, Dr. Moulton or an endodontist (a dentist who specializes in problems with the nerves of the teeth) will remove the inflamed or infected nerve of the tooth. Without a nerve, there will be no more pain! Next, the inside of the tooth will be carefully cleaned, disinfected, and sealed with a rubber-like material called gutta percha. Finally, the tooth is filled with a temporary filling. Your doctor may suggest placing a permanent filling, or a crown, to strengthen and protect the tooth from breakage. As long as you continue to care for your teeth and gums with regular brushing, flossing, and checkups, your restored tooth can last a lifetime.

What happens after a root canal? 

After the procedure, an antibiotic may be prescribed to avoid any potential infections. A tooth that has had a root canal will become weak and brittle over time. To avoid the tooth or root from breaking, the tooth will require a permanent filling, or crown, to protect the underlying tooth structure. This procedure can be performed at Dr. Moulton's office. A permanent filling, or crown, also properly seals the root canal access hole and prevents any bacteria from from entering and infecting the tooth.