Root Canals / Endodontics


What is a Root Canal?

Root Canal Therapy involves opening into the tooth’s nerve chamber to access the individual canals that run from the nerve chamber down the center of the roots, to the end (apex) tip of the tooth. Decay, infection, and inflamed nerves are removed and the canals are enlarged, irrigated, sterilized and dried before placing a sealing material along the entire length of the root.

While it seems simple, there can be complicating factors. Teeth can have multiple roots, extra roots, curved roots, all of which are usually not round with round canals, but like a squashed straw with odd shaped canals that can open to the outside of the root anywhere along it’s length. In spite of this, the Root Canal Therapy has a very high success rate when done in sturdy tooth structure. The more cracks and deeper the decay around the neck of the tooth, the more complications are likely.

Why do I need a Root Canal?

Teeth that are infected down to the tip from decay, breakage, or trauma clearly need those canals cleaned and sealed. Teeth that are irreversibly irritated, usually from cracks, deep fillings, accidental trauma, etc., are also candidates.

Why not just extract the tooth?

Keeping your tooth root in the bone is critical if you want to avoid the dramatic loss of bone and gum tissue that follows an extraction. Bone is maintained only by function, by the pressure and tension from the tooth ligament or an implant, so keeping that root area busy holding a load is very important for your long term health.

What other options do I have?

On an emergency basis, we could relieve the infection for a week or so, giving you more time to decide.

You could replace the tooth with a Temporary “Flipper”, a Removable Partial Denture, or a Fixed Bridge. These options increase the load on your adjacent teeth, increasing the chance of problems with them and shortening their useful life.

You could replace the tooth with an implant. An implant will carry it’s own weight, relieving the stress and extra load on your adjacent teeth, thereby reducing your chances of problems with them and increasing their useful life.

You could do nothing to replace the missing tooth. This will increase the load on the adjacent teeth. They will tend to tip into the space, reducing their ability to support any load while, at the same time, you are increasing the load upon them and shortening their useful life.

So, is a Root Canal all I need?

If your tooth has much decay or damage or a crack, it is best to have a Post and Crown placed. If you have most of the tooth structure present, you may get by with only a Root Canal, Post and Filling. However, about 1 of 3 Root Canal treated teeth without crowns will break in the long term.

What if I cannot afford to do this all at once?

You can use your Care Credit charge card for 6 to 12 months interest free if approved. You can Stage the treatment in several appointments over time. Remember, though, that the tooth could break at any time while you are delaying treatment.  For example, have the Root Canal done, then return for the Post, then return for the Crown. You can try getting by with a Filling instead of a Crown, but the tooth could break. You could have the tooth removed and an implant placed at the same visit, then come back in 3 to 6 months for the Post and Crown.  Or put a snap on the implant to secure a Partial or Denture.

Do I need to see an Endodontist?  (Root Canal Specialist)

Some teeth present severe problems that are best addressed by a specialist. If you prefer or require an Endodontic Specialist, we will help you find an Endodontist, fill out a Referral Form for you, share our records, and cooperate with the specialist to ensure your best experience. Also, some cases, even after our treatment, may not heal as desired, in which case, we’d want you to see an Endodontist for evaluation and the best long term result.

Will a Root Canal guarantee I can keep my tooth?

The root system and canals can be curved and unpredictable. Cracks could be present, but invisible, or cracks can occur at any time during or after treatment. Perforations can occur or be discovered during treatment. Some teeth are lost in spite of Root Canal Treatment. While it can vary with the tooth and situation, there is generally about a 95% success rate on Root Canal Therapy. That means that, even if the best treatment is done, about 1 out of 20 patients will need to have the tooth extracted in spite of Root Canal Therapy. No treatment is perfect.

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Severe or unresponsive cases may be referred to a specialist