Endodontic Therapy (aka Root Canal Therapy) is a common dental treatment done in Tijuana, Mexico. The aim is to eliminate infection caused by bacteria, prevent reinfection, and save the natural tooth. The root canal is the part of the tooth that houses the pulp. The pulp is composed of nerves, blood vessels, and connective tissues that gives nutrients to the tooth, keeping it vital or alive. Infection happens when a cavity is too deep, giving the bacteria access to the vital pulp, infecting it. This Infection results in pain, abscess, and discoloration of the teeth.
There are only two options for how to address an infected tooth: either root canal therapy or tooth extraction. Dentists would always recommend root canal therapy as the first treatment of choice, as it aims to save the tooth, rather than replace it.
How is a root canal done?
- 1. Access Preparation: Before anything else, the tooth will be anesthetized. After anesthesia the dentist drills a hole to access the root canals. Each tooth will vary in the number of root canals. Anterior teeth usually only have one while posterior teeth have multiple canals.
- 2. Pulp Extirpation and Enlargement of Canals: Once all the canals are located, the dentist will remove the infected pulp on each canal using an instrument called a file, in a procedure called pulp extirpation. The dentist then enlarges, shapes, and decontaminates the canals using files and irrigating solutions to promote healing and to avoid reinfections.
- 3. Obturation: After confirming that the canals are clean, the tooth is now ready for obturation. Obturation is the step wherein the root canal is filled and sealed. A commonly used filling called “gutta percha” together with a root canal sealer will now be placed into the hollow canals. The gutta percha occupies most of the root canal while the sealer helps seal the canals to prevent the presence of voids where bacteria could grow.
- 4. Final restoration: Placing a crown is the final step in a root canal treatment, not a dental filling. After the root canal treatment, the structural integrity of the tooth has been weakened. It is important to remember that during the root canal treatment, we took out the pulp, the source of nutrients of the tooth, leaving the tooth dead. This means the tooth will lose its strength over time and is prone to fracture. This is why it is essential to put a crown to protect the exterior part of the tooth. A root canal treated tooth also discolors over time, a crown can help cover this discoloration.
Is root canal therapy painful?
When you hear the term Root canal therapy it may sound painful and traumatizing, but root canal treatment is relatively pain free thanks to anesthesia. You will not feel anything throughout the treatment. However, it is common to feel soreness, numbness, and discomfort after the procedure. These symptoms may last for a few days.
How to know if you need root canal treatment:
- Pain upon chewing or biting
- Pimple on gums
- Lingering sensitivity even after cold/hot sensation is removed
- Fractured teeth reaching the pulp
- Deep cavity
- Discoloration of the tooth (usually due to trauma)
Advantages of Root Canal Therapy:
- Prevents tooth loss and bone loss: If a tooth is extracted, not only is there tooth loss but also bone loss, which could affect your chewing, appearance, and overall oral health. Although prosthetics may be able to restore function of missing teeth, nothing will ever function like a natural tooth.
- Eliminates pain: Since we removed the infection, a successful root canal treatment leads to a pain-free tooth.
- Prevents shifting of teeth: Teeth tend to shift even when there is only a single missing tooth. This causes gaps and supraeruptions of adjacent teeth.
- Cost effective: Although tooth extraction is so much cheaper than root canal treatment, it does not end there. Teeth replacements make tooth extraction more expensive than root canal treatment. Implants are very expensive, bridges are more expensive than a single crown, and dentures might be cheap but they have to be replaced every few years.
Disadvantages of Root Canal Therapy:
- Weakens tooth structure
- Reinfection is possible if not done properly
- Root canal treated tooth can darken over time
- Might need multiple visits