Root Canal Therapy

Root canal or endodontic therapy is a procedure used to save a dying or dead tooth from extraction.  While extraction used to be common practice, the cost associated with replacing a tooth with a bridge or implant is much more expensive that performing a root canal therapy and crown.  Nothing beats natural teeth in function, so it is recommended to save them whenever possible.

The pulp of a tooth serves as a lifeline for each tooth and is a combination of nerves, blood vessels, and cells.  When bacteria infect the pulp chamber, the nerve begins to die and infection can spread out of the end of the tooth root into the surrounding bone.  This process can sometimes be painful.  When the infection is persistent and low-grade, the body reacts by creating a sinus tract or drainage pathway to the mouth.  This can taste bitter or cause an unusual smell.  These are all signs that your tooth is infected and needs to be treated with root canal therapy.

What are the signs that root canal therapy is needed?

  • Severe toothache pain upon chewing or application of pressure
  • Prolonged sensitivity (pain) to hot or cold temperatures (after the heat or cold has been removed)
  • Discoloration (darkening) of the tooth
  • Swelling and tenderness in nearby gums
  • A persistent or recurring pimple on the gums
  • Sometimes no symptoms are present and only radiographic (x-ray images) reveal the presence of an abscessed tooth

During root canal therapy, the pulp is removed, and the inside of the tooth is cleaned and sealed.  Once completed the final step to restore the tooth properly is usually a crown.  Because a tooth that needs root canal therapy often is one that has a large filling, extensive decay, or other weakness due to cracks, a crown is often needed to protect it and to restore it to full function.  If a dental crown is recommended but not pursued, the tooth may fracture vertically through the root and require extraction.