With such a complex topic, it’s hard to dive in with just one posting, so I’ll touch on same basic questions I’ve been getting and get into the nitty gritty in multiple future posts!
At some point in your life, you may need a root canal, which is then often capped with a crown. It’s important to keep in mind that every case is different, and there are often multiple “right ways” to treat someone’s tooth, so the best person to answer your questions is your own dentist who knows your history, your past dental treatments, and can see your radiographs (x-rays) and come up with an individualized plan that’s right for you.
Q: Why do I need a root canal?
A: Root canal treatment may be necessary for different reasons. But whatever the reason, it is best to consider root canal treatment as a means to try and save the tooth. The nerves and blood vessels within the roots of our teeth can become infected through disease such as tooth decay, trauma from athletic injuries, or as a result of long-standing large fillings. Unfortunately, unlike in the body this infection will not heal by antibiotics alone. The infected material must be removed from the roots (or the roots themselves need to be taken out through tooth extraction), and the space must be filled with a non-toxic biocompatible material.
Q: How long will the procedure take?
A: To perform this procedure well and to ensure the canals have been cleaned adequately significant time is required. Sometimes multiple appointments are necessary, depending on the number and condition of the roots. Every situation is different, as the extent of existing infection can influence both the procedure and the recovery. The need for sedation or the patient’s desire to return to work is more dependent on the patient’s comfort with the appointment, as opposed to the technical aspects of the procedure itself.
Q: Will there be pain or discomfort?
A: It is best to anticipate a certain degree of discomfort when chewing on the tooth for a few days following root canal treatment. So, plan for a diet that is comfortable to chew. (In many cases, it is more than likely that discomfort was experienced when chewing before the root canal was performed due to the infection present).
Q: Why do I need a crown?
A: Not all teeth that have had a root canal require a crown afterward. But because the nerve is attached to the blood supply, the tooth becomes very dry and fragile once the root canal is completed. More often than not, we see patients who spent good money to save the tooth with the root canal who do not continue on to get the protection from the crown return to us a year or two later with a fractured tooth that now requires an extraction. If the structural integrity of the tooth has been significantly compromised, a crown is often the best option to help save the tooth. Every situation is unique – ask your dentist for her or his opinion.
Q: Why are a root canal and a crown performed at separate appointments?
A: Most often, the crown procedure is accomplished at an appointment separate to the root canal. Part of this reason is for your own comfort. A root canal appointment is often a lengthy and sometimes unpredictable appointment. In addition, certain crowns require two appointments, depending on the process and materials required, for optimal results. Good things take time!
Keep an eye out for more detailed Root Canal posts in the future!