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What is a Root Canal?

July 16, 2024
What is a Root Canal

A root canal is necessary to save severely damaged teeth. Specifically, root canals treat significant tooth decay and infections within the teeth. For severely damaged or decayed teeth, a root canal is the only treatment that will prevent the loss of the tooth. Saving natural teeth is always preferable to extraction or tooth loss, as it preserves the tooth root, as the tooth root remains intact.

Root Canal Therapy: The Diagnosis

Most often patients discover they need a root canal because one of three situations arises:

  • Tooth and gum pain
  • Cracked tooth
  • Impact on a tooth (trauma)

If you develop pain in a tooth, which is worse when biting down or chewing, it’s often due to a large cavity that has reached the pulp of the tooth. An infection may or may not be present. You may also experience tender, discolored, or swollen gums. Your dentist will need to perform a root canal to remove the decay within the pulp and treat the tooth for infection.

If you crack a tooth when biting down on an object or as the result of grinding your teeth at night (bruxism), you will also need a root canal to remove bacteria from within the tooth and salvage the cracked tooth.

Emergency root canals are also performed after the teeth have sustained a direct impact. Without a root canal, teeth that have experienced dental trauma are likely to be lost.

The Root Canal Procedure

Today, root canals are safer, faster, and more successful than ever thanks to innovations in dental technologies. 

On the day of your procedure, the area surrounding the affected tooth will be completely anesthetized. Once the tooth is completely numb, the dentist will create a small hole to access the pulp. The pulp will be removed, and the canals of the root will be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected. The canals may also be reshaped to prevent future infections.  

The pulp chamber will then be filled with a biocompatible material such as gutta percha. To complete your treatment, the tooth will be covered with a crown.  The entire process typically takes less than 90 minutes. 

The Crucial Role of a Tooth Root

The reason that your dentist will do everything possible to preserve your natural tooth, is due to the critical role that your tooth root plays in your oral health, and overall health. Consider that the teeth roots anchor the teeth to the jaw. When the roots are removed, the jawbone begins to recede.  

Jawbone loss causes myriad long-term problems. For example, a deteriorated jaw bone puts additional teeth at risk of being lost. It puts remaining teeth at risk of and drifting into the gap left by a missing tooth. Jawbone loss also alters your facial appearance, causing lip thinning, premature wrinkling, and a sunken appearance around the mouth.  

Incidentally, the reason that dental implant restorations have soared in popularity, and are deemed the very best solution for missing teeth is because they are the only restoration that mimics a natural tooth, including the root.

Frequently Asked Questions about Root Canals 

How long is recovery from a root canal?

Patients who are suffering from acute pain often find that the pain is gone after the root canal. You may experience a bit of tenderness or swelling for just a couple of days. If you are experiencing severe pain after a root canal, notify your dentist immediately.

Are root canals covered by insurance?

Most policies provide an allowance for emergency dental care including root canal therapy. Check with your insurer for specific details on your financial responsibility. 

Schedule a Dental Exam in Westport, CT

If you’re experiencing tooth pain, or if it’s been six months or longer since your last dental appointment, contact Imperial Dental Associates in Westport by calling 203-227-2520. If you prefer you are welcome to message us instead. 

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Imperial Dental Associates
15 Imperial Ave
Westport, CT 06880
Fax: 203-454-8710
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15 Imperial Ave
Westport, CT 06880
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