Root canals have a terrible reputation. People even use the expression “I’d rather have a root canal” to describe something painful or uncomfortable. But the truth is, a root canal is a standard dental procedure no more painful than having a cavity filled. It can help save a badly damaged or decayed tooth that may otherwise rot and need to be extracted. And, trust us, it hurts a lot more to continue with a damaged tooth than to undergo a root canal procedure!
Here’s what you can expect from a root canal treatment at Gallardo Periodontics and Implant Dentistry.
What is a Root Canal?
Inside each tooth, extending down to its roots, is a soft tissue known as the pulp, which contains blood vessels, nerves, and connective tissue. This pulp can become infected, damaged, and inflamed due to decay, cracks, chips, tooth injury, or multiple dental procedures on the tooth.
A root canal, sometimes called endodontic treatment or endodontic surgery, involves using specialized tools to drill a tiny opening inside the infected or decayed tooth to remove the damaged pulp and refill it with a biocompatible substance called gutta-percha.
Although old-school root canals, which were often performed without anesthesia, had a reputation of being incredibly painful, modern root canal procedures are no more painful than any standard dental treatment. In fact, at Gallardo Periodontics and Implant Dentistry, we offer various degrees of sedation dentistry, including IV and conscious sedation, to make every dental procedure as comfortable and painless as possible.
For more complex cases that may require endodontic surgery or further endodontic therapy, Dr. Gallardo and his team are always happy to refer you to the best endodontist in Miami or in your local area to go over your options.
Signs You May Need a Root Canal
A tooth infection is a leading cause for needing a root canal, and teeth can get infected for many different reasons. You may notice one or more of the following signs if you have a tooth that needs a root canal:
Severe tooth pain
Teeth shouldn’t hurt. Any pain that you feel in your mouth — including your teeth, gums, and tongue — should be mentioned to your dentist because it can signal an oral health issue. Sharp tooth pain that hits you suddenly, even when you are not eating or drinking anything, may be a sign of a tooth infection or a dead tooth that needs a root canal.
Is your pain persistent, or do you feel it deep in the bone of your tooth, reaching all the way to your jaw and your face? You may have an infection that calls for a root canal. Contact your dentist as soon as possible to determine the source of the problem.
Sensitivity to hot or cold temperatures
Many things can make your teeth sensitive, like smoking, tooth whiteners, poor brushing habits, and receding gums. But if you have prolonged sensitivity that causes pain when you touch, chew, or put pressure on your tooth, you may need a root canal.
If your gums are tender, swollen, or have a pimple-like bump in them, it’s important to schedule an appointment with your dentist to find out what’s causing the inflammation. You may need a root canal if your gums don’t improve or if the swelling is caused by a tooth infection that won’t respond to other treatments.
If you have a tooth that has significantly changed color, particularly one that has become darker than the surrounding teeth, it may be a sign of nerve damage. In some cases, you may need a root canal to remove the damaged tissue and prevent infection.
Chipped or cracked tooth
Your teeth can get chipped or cracked from eating hard foods, suffering from a sports or accident injury, or even bruxism (excessive teeth grinding). A chip or crack in a tooth can expose the nerves beneath the surface and lead to an infection, which may require a root canal to keep it from spreading.
What to Expect from Root Canal Therapy
Root canal treatments work by cleaning and shaping the inside of the tooth and then refilling and sealing the root canal to prevent bacteria from seeping in and creating a further infection.
A root canal can save a tooth by preventing further decay and restoring the tooth’s normal function. In most cases, a crown is placed to protect the inside of the tooth and return it to its natural appearance.
The Root Canal Procedure
Root canal therapy can be performed with just local anesthesia at our Miami office, requiring no special preparation in advance.
The first step is to numb the area with a local anesthetic. Some patients also choose to undergo conscious sedation to help ease nerves and stay relaxed during the procedure. Once the area has been numbed, a dental dam (small sheet of rubber) is placed over the site to isolate the tooth and keep the area clear.
Then, your dentist will use small drills to clear out the inside of the tooth and remove the damaged pulp. This process can take up to an hour or so on average. Once the tooth has been thoroughly cleaned, the endodontist will fill the root canal with biocompatible 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.
You can expect the process to take 1-2 hours, after which you can resume your normal activities. The only restrictions have to do with chewing: you should take care to avoid hot food for at least a few hours after the procedure and only eat soft foods, like soup and mashed potatoes, for the next couple of days to prevent tooth fracture and discomfort.
A few weeks after the procedure, a permanent crown will be placed to protect and restore the tooth once the area has had time to heal. 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 don’t notice any difference between the restored tooth and surrounding teeth.
Recovering From a Root Canal
Following the root canal 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 the endodontic treatment. This gives the tooth time to heal and to ensure the infection has cleared completely.
Avoid chewing or putting pressure on the treated tooth until your follow-up appointment to have the crown placed by your dentist.
Following root canal treatment, teeth are very susceptible to fracture, so 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 visiting your dentist at least twice a year for regular checkups.
Root Canal Therapy in Miami, FL
If you live in the Miami area and have been struggling with tooth pain, don’t hesitate to call Gallardo Periodontics and Implant Dentistry at 305-447-1447 or click here to schedule an appointment today. Root canals are nothing to be afraid of! The procedure itself is not painful, and it can save a damaged, disease, or infected tooth that may otherwise need to be pulled out.
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.
Most dental insurances will cover at least some part of root canal treatments after the deductible has been met. Contact your insurance provider or call our office at 305-447-1447 if you have questions about your dental plan.
While modern root canal treatments are typically very successful, there’s a small percentage of procedures that fail, causing the old root canal infection to return. Factors that may prevent a root canal from healing properly include not clearing out the infection in its entirety, an ill-fitting crown or filling that allows bacteria and saliva to enter the tooth, and poor oral hygiene.
Root canals with crowns can last decades or even a lifetime, and the treated tooth or teeth can go on to function normally for years. Practice good oral hygiene (i.e., brushing at least twice daily, flossing, visiting your dentist for regular checkups) to extend the life of your root canal for as long as possible.
If you need a root canal, the pulp inside your tooth or teeth is probably infected. If left untreated, the infection can spread to your gums, jawbone, and surrounding teeth. In severe cases, the infection can lead to a dental abscess and seep into your bloodstream, causing serious and sometimes life-threatening health problems, like sepsis, stroke, and heart attacks.