What to Expect with Root Canal Therapy at Your Marco Island Dentist
If one of your teeth is causing chronic pain or the surrounding gum tissue seems inflamed, your dentist might recommend addressing the problem with a root canal. And while you may have heard mention of the dental term, many people don’t know exactly what root canal therapy is. While perhaps not as confounding as dental treatment terms like apicoectomy and curettage, the words “root” and “canal” raise more questions than answers for those unfamiliar with the treatment. With a bit of thought, you might determine that “root” pertains to the unseen part of the tooth that anchors it to the jawbone, but what is the “canal,” and what does the treatment entail with either of them?
With plenty of root canal therapy experience, Dr. Jonathan Van Dyke and Dr. Brian Garcia of southwest Florida’s Island Tower Dentistry can certainly answer those questions. And they’ll start with the easier one by explaining that the “canal” is the space within the root that contains blood vessels and nerves collectively referred to as pulp. Root canal therapy specifically treats diseases and injuries affecting the pulp to ensure the natural tooth’s long-term viability. Root canal therapy eliminates the infection and enhances tooth strength, which helps maintain the working and aesthetic life of a tooth that might otherwise need to be extracted.
Root Canal Causes and Symptoms
Persistent tooth pain is usually linked to cavities, gum disease, damaged filings, impacted teeth, and referred pain from other issues. However, sometimes the pain is related to infection within the dental pulp. Infection is caused when tooth trauma—chips, cracks, cavities, compromised filings, etc.—allows bacteria to enter the root canal. If left untreated, the bacterial infection will essentially kill the tooth and can spread to other parts of the mouth, causing further dental problems. It can also expand into the jaw, blood, brain, and other parts of the body, where it can cause more severe medical issues, including stroke and heart attack.
While your dentist can identify potential root canal problems, other symptoms to be aware of include:
- Sensitivity to temperatures and pressure (which can linger)
- Chips or cracking of a tooth (which should be examined by a dentist)
- Tooth and/or gum discoloration
- Looseness in one tooth
- Swollen gums
- Gum pimples
Your Root Canal Procedure at Island Tower Dentistry
While root canal therapy makes many people anxious because it targets the heart of the tooth, most dentists characterize the procedure as a deep filling. Root canal therapy typically begins with an injection of local pain-controlling anesthesia to numb the tooth and gums. If you experience extreme anxiety about dental procedures, Island Tower Dentistry offers two levels of Oral Conscious Sedation, to maximize pain relief and ensure comfort.
Once the area around the tooth is numb, your dentist will place a dental dam around the tooth being treated to help keep saliva (and its bacteria) away from the treatment area. Your dentist will then drill into the tooth down to the root canal system to provide access for small dental instruments that they use to remove the pulp and clean and disinfect the interior of the root canal. Once clean, your dentist will fill the canal with a thermoplastic filling material called gutta-percha and seal the opening with either a temporary or permanent filling depending on the tooth’s location and the opening size. Smaller openings in the front teeth can be closed with a permanent filling, but larger openings necessitate covering with a crown, which your dentist will schedule one or two weeks after the initial work. Due to the pressure exerted by chewing, back tooth root canal openings are almost always covered by a crown.
Root Canal Recovery and Aftercare
Like having a cavity filled, you should expect the treatment area to feel numb for several hours after treatment. You should avoid chewing and drinking hot liquids during this time to prevent accidental mouth burning or biting down on the treatment area. Your dentist may prescribe a non-steroidal pain reliever, which you should take as prescribed when in pain. Apply a towel-wrapped ice pack to the site for additional pain relief, and rinse your mouth with warm salt water. You may also be prescribed antibiotics to further ensure complete elimination of the infection.
You should avoid chewing food on the root canal side of your mouth for at least two to three days. This helps reduce pressure on the treatment area and prevents food particles from getting lodged between nearby teeth. Likewise, avoid hard, crunchy, and sticky foods. If you have been fitted with a temporary filling while awaiting a crown, keep such food items away from the root canal side until you’ve been fitted with the crown.
Island Tower Dentistry will advise you of any other aftercare treatment steps you should take as warranted by your distinct root canal and overall dental health.
Contact Island Tower Dentistry for Your Chronic Tooth Pain
If you’ve been experiencing chronic tooth pain, the dentists at southwest Florida’s Island Tower Dentistry would be glad to investigate likely causes during an examination. With expertise in root canals and the full slate of dental services in the Marco Island, Florida, area, contact Island Tower Dentistry today at 239-394-1004.