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A root canal is a dental treatment to remove an infection that has caused the pulp (nerves and blood vessels) inside the tooth to become damaged or inflamed. A root canal is done to save the natural tooth; the alternative is to have the tooth extracted, which would leave a hole in your smile and could cause the surrounding to shift out of position.
If the infected tooth isn’t treated, you could experience:
- Severe tooth pain
- Tooth discoloration
- Sensitivity to hot or cold temperature
- Bone loss around the tip of the root
- Gum infection
What is an Endodontist?
An endodontist is a root canal specialist who completed dental school and then completed an additional two-to-three years of specialty training in endodontics. The word “endo” is Greek for “inside.” The soft pulp inside teeth contains nerves, connective tissue, and blood vessels; when the pulp becomes infected, the tooth can hurt. An endodontist specializes in eliminating the pain and saving the tooth.
How the Root Canal Procedure Works
While many people joke about root canals, they are virtually painless. You may feel a gentle pressure on the tooth, similar to when you get a filling. If the sound of dental equipment bothers you, ask us about sedation dentistry and other options to help you feel comfortable and relaxed.
The first step is the evaluation. Dr. Marcus and his team of endodontists in Huntington can supplement digital x-rays with an advanced medical imaging technique called Cone Beam Computed Tomography (CBCT) that creates three-dimensional views of the teeth. The team looks for hidden canals, calcium deposits and other blockages, and the pathology of the surrounding bone.
Here’s how the root canal procedure works: the endodontist will create an opening in the top of the tooth and then use a series of endodontic files to remove the infected tissue and clean the tooth canals. Next, the canals are filled with a specially-made biocompatible material called gutta-percha. If it’s needed or as directed by the patient’s general dentist, the endodontist may insert a tiny post to give the tooth extra support. The top of the tooth is sealed with a temporary filling to prevent food or bacteria from entering. Then you’ll make an appointment to see your general dentist, who will top the tooth with a permanent crown.
How long the root canal procedure takes and how much the root canal costs both depend on the number of infected canals in the tooth. Depending on the type of tooth, it may have one, two, three, or four canals. The canals can be tiny; some are about as thick as a strand of hair.
Root Canals in Children
Dr. Marcus and his team of endodontists perform root canals in children as well as adults.
Root canal treatment in children can vary depending on whether it’s a primary (baby) tooth or a permanent (secondary) tooth. The pulp, which is a network of nerves and blood vessels, is closer to the top of a baby tooth than it is in a permanent tooth. If the child has a cavity, it can reach the pulp in a baby tooth quickly; that’s one of the reasons why it’s important to make sure children receive professional teeth cleanings twice a year. Let’s begin by discussing the options for children’s teeth.
Pulpotomies and Pulpectomies refer to the partial removal or complete removal of the pulp inside a tooth. The type of procedure needed depends on several factors including the age of the patient, the development of the tooth, the degree and extent of the infection, and the involvement of surrounding tissues (swelling).
Apexification and Apexogenesis are procedures designed to encourage a tooth to continue developing even if the pulp tissue has been damaged through trauma or infection.
More Endodontic Treatment Options
An apicoectomy is the surgical management of any infection in the bone that did not heal after the root canal treatment. The endodontist will open the gum tissue to remove any infected tissue at the tip of the tooth root, and then may place a small filling in the root to seal it.
Frequently referred to as “regenerative endodontics,” this is a cutting-edge technique that uses stem cell research and tissue engineering to promote root development, apical closure, and dentinal wall growth. It’s used mostly in immature permanent teeth to grow new pulp tissue.
More Endodontic Procedures
In the vast majority of people, the root canal will save the tooth and last a lifetime. Occasionally, a tooth that was treated may not heal as expected or may develop a new problem years later. This can typically be fixed with a procedure called endodontic retreatment. Our team of Long Island endodontists can assist you, even if the original root canal procedure was performed by a different dentist.
No matter which procedure you need, our highly-skilled team adheres to the highest standards of infection control in accordance with the Centers for Disease Control and OSHA guidelines.