Root Canals


What is a root canal?

A root canal treats infection inside the roots of a tooth.  Those nerves and blood vessels must be removed to clear the infection. The picture on the far left shows an infected nerve (see the black cavity at the top of the tooth and the red infection (abscess) at the bottom of the tooth). The second from the left picture shows how the nerve is removed with small instruments. This is not painful since the patient’s mouth is very numb. The third picture from the left shows how the nerve canals are filled with a material so bacteria cannot return. The final picture (on the right) shows the tooth with the root canal and a crown in place.

Why do teeth nerves become infected?

A tooth infection can come from a cavity in the tooth, trauma to the tooth (being hit in the mouth) or just having a tooth filled multiple times. Occasionally, it is hard to determine what caused the infection or if there are multiple causes. It can take years for the infection to form; sometimes an adult will develop the need for a root canal after being hit in the mouth as a young child.

I’ve heard that root canals hurt.

With today’s technology, most patients can be made comfortable during a root canal. In fact, I’ve had several myself and never had pain. Most root canals that hurt have been infected for a long time; sometimes people walk around with a toothache for years! This means that the infection is very hard to remove. Also, a tooth can be infected and there may be no pain. Full-mouth x-rays show tooth infections so they can be treated before the inevitable hurt begins.

Why is a crown essential after a root canal is done?

A root canal treated tooth is more brittle and likely to break. If a crown is not placed, the tooth often breaks and cannot be restored. Then the patient loses not only the tooth but the investment made on the root canal.

Why does Dr. Johnson not do root canals?

Today’s root canal specialists have the latest technology to make root canals a comfortable and successful procedure. Endodontists (root canal specialists) perform this procedure every day. I’ve had an endodontist do my root canals; I recommend the same treatment that I had for myself to my patients.

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