ENDODONTICS (Root Canal Therapy)
“You say I need a root canal? I’d rather have an IRS audit!” But did you know that the majority of root canal procedures result in minimal to no symptoms? It is also available to have a sedative which will help you relax through the appointment. Post-operative soreness is minimal as well. In fact, most patients are surprised at how comfortable the over-all experience is.
Root canal therapy is performed when the pulp of the tooth, which is composed of nerves and blood vessels, becomes infected or damaged. When decay or fracture of a tooth has extended to the inner core, the pulp tissue gets inflamed and infected because of microbial invasion. This condition, called “pulpitis” often causes painful symptoms but can sometimes occur quietly without symptoms. Either way, a tooth suffering from pulpitis will eventually be lost or extracted unless it is treated. So after getting it completely numb, we get inside the tooth, remove the decay and infected pulp, flush it with disinfectants and seal it with a soft material called “gutta percha”. This eradicates the infection. We then fill the opening with a core; Most teeth also need a crown to restore strength, shape and function.
DO ROOT CANALS WORK?
The short answer is “yes” and studies show the success rate to be around 85% over 5 years… but it depends on the tooth in question. The following are factors that can reduce or enhance treatment success:
1. DIAGNOSIS – the state of the pulp and surrounding bone at time of treatment. Some teeth that are over-due for a root canal can have extensive infection of bone around and outside of the roots (visible on x-ray). This reduces the success rate or at least prolongs healing time, so it’s best not to procrastinate!
2. ANATOMY of the canal system – Some molars have quite complex canal systems with 4 canals which make it more difficult for the average clinician to effectively clean, shape and disinfect the canals of contamination. These teeth have an 80% success rate. Incisors (front teeth) and bicuspids, having 1 or 2 canals maintain a 90% chance of success.
3. RESTORATION – Timely restoration of the treated tooth with a properly fitting crown is important to prevent future fracture, decay and eventual loss of the tooth which would otherwise have lasted many years.