Almost everyone has heard of a root canal, and although it is an extremely common procedure in Miami and throughout the United States, many people are terrified to learn that endodontic treatment will be necessary to save a tooth. However, the root canal treatment process is very routine and much less difficult and uncomfortable than most people think, allowing for a natural tooth to be saved without any additional intervention. If we find that a root canal is your best option, our Miami dental specialists refer our patients who need a root canal to a specialized and trained Endodontist in Miami.
But what is a root canal, and how does the procedure work?
Root Canal Symptoms
How do I know if I need a root canal?
Inside each tooth, extending down the roots is soft tissue known as the tooth pulp, which contains blood vessels, nerves, and connective tissue and helps the hard material of the tooth develop. This pulp can bec
ome inflamed, damaged, and infected, due to decay of the tooth, cracks, chips, tooth injury, or multiple dental procedures on the tooth. One of the main signs of pulp damage is pain and/or the formation of an abscess. You may also notice sensitivity to heat and cold, tenderness, tooth discoloration, and swelling and tenderness in the surrounding area and the lymph nodes. If you are experiencing tooth pain, it’s important to see a dentist as soon as possible, as you may need endodontic work or another procedure. If left untreated, infected pulp will continue to cause pain and infection, and eventually, cause the loss of the tooth. Sometimes, infected tooth pulp causes no symptoms whatsoever, which is why regular checkups are so important.
What is Endodontic Treatment?
Endodontic treatment is used to treat the inside of the tooth. A root canal is performed to remove the infected or damaged pulp from the tooth and roots, replacing it with biocompatible material (typically a rubber-like substance) to prevent further damage to the tooth. During the initial appointment, a temporary filling will be placed in the tooth to protect it during the healing process. A second appointment is typically necessary to place a crown on the tooth and protect the tooth permanently.
How a Root Canal can save a Tooth
Root canal therapy works by cleaning and shaping the inside of the tooth, then refilling and sealing the root canal to prevent bacteria from creating further infection. A root canal can save a tooth by helping to prevent further decay and restoring the tooth the normal function. A crown is placed to protect the inside of the tooth, in most cases returning the tooth to normal permanently.
Almost any tooth can receive endodontic treatment. However, some teeth cannot be saved using this method. Severely fractured or unsupported teeth, and teeth with inaccessible roots sometimes cannot be saved and may require other restoration procedures instead.
The Root Canal Procedure
Root canal therapy can be performed with just local anesthetic at our Miami offices, requiring no special preparation in advance. Once the area has been numbed, a dental dam (small sheet of rubber) over the area to isolate the tooth and keep the area clear.
Small drills will be used to clear out and shape the inside of the tooth and remove the damaged tooth pulp. This process can take up to an hour or so on average. Once the tooth has been prepared, the endodontist will melt down a resin or rubber-like material and begin filling the root canal with the resin and adhesive cement. The filling will be packed in tightly to prevent bacteria from entering the tooth in the future. A further temporary filling will typically be put in as well to protect the tooth while it heals prior to restoration.
Generally, patients can expect the process to take 1-2 hours, after which normal activities can be resumed. The only restrictions have to do with chewing—patients should take care to avoid hot food for at least a few hours after the procedure and should eat only soft food and soup for the next day or so to prevent tooth fracture and discomfort.
A few weeks after the procedure, once the area has had time to heal, a permanent crown will be placed to protect and restore the tooth. These are typically made of porcelain, and cover the hole made in the tooth during the endodontic procedure. Treated teeth with minimal support may also require the placement of a post to help support the crown. Crowns look natural and allow for the tooth to feel completely normal. There is usually a period of adjustment, during which it may feel odd to chew with the crown, but after a while, most patients do not notice any difference between the restored tooth and surrounding teeth.
Root Canal Recovery and Post Care
Following the procedure, the tooth may feel sore or tender for a few days while the ligaments and nerves heal. This discomfort is usually easy to control with over-the-counter painkillers, which your Miami endodontist will recommend. You should contact your dentist and endodontist right away if you experience severe tooth pain.
Tooth restoration (crown placement) typically takes place a few weeks following endodontic treatment. This gives the tooth time to heal and to ensure there are no problems.
Until your follow-up appointment to have the crown placed by your dentist, you should avoid chewing on the treated tooth. Following root canal treatment, teeth are very susceptible to fracture, and you should minimize this risk as much as you can. Once the tooth has been fully restored with a crown, you will be able to resume normal chewing.
After endodontic treatment, all you will need to do to care for the treated and restored tooth is continue normal brushing, flossing, and dental checkups.
How Much Will a Root Canal Cost?
As with most dental procedures, the cost varies depending on the dentist, region, and type of tooth to be treated. Molars are more difficult to treat than other teeth, and typically cost more for this reason. Your dentist will go over all the costs with you and discuss options for financing. Many dental plans cover at least part of endodontic treatment.