What is a “root canal”? Well, it is a general term that most people use in place of the term in dentistry called root canal therapy or an endodontic treatment. Actually a root canal is part of the tooth. When the root canal becomes infected, it may be necessary to perform endodontic treatment to avoid further damage and the need for tooth extraction. As an experienced restorative dentist, Dr. Brian Shaffer is able to perform root canal therapy out of his San Antonio, Texas dental practice. If you are seeking relief from persistent tooth pain, contact his office today to schedule a consultation.
Understanding Root Canal Infection
The tooth is made up of a crown and a root. In the center of the tooth is the root canal. It is filled with the vital or living tissue of the tooth. Most patients refer to this as the nerve of their tooth. However, it is more than just the nerve, and is also made up of connective tissue (like the cells of tissue found just below you outer skin), blood vessels. This “nerve” of the tooth actually tells you when the tooth has pain because of hot or cold, chemicals, or trauma. This area is the living tissue of the tooth!
Sometimes decay or trauma of the tooth is so great that the living tissue inside the tooth dies. Fracturing the hard outer surface of the tooth can cause the living tissue to become exposed to fluids and bacteria in the mouth, making it susceptible to infection. When the tooth dies, the infection can spread into the bone at the tip of the root of the tooth.
In most instances, antibiotics can temporarily take care of the infection by killing off the bacteria, but it is only a matter of time before more bacteria come and re-infect the tooth. Dr. Shaffer performs root canal therapy or an endodontic procedure to stop the infection permanently.
Root Canal Treatment
“Root canals” should not hurt. After a couple of days on antibiotics, the infection is generally controlled. In addition, Dr. Shaffer will provide an anesthetic during the procedure. He will then make a small hole in the top of the tooth and remove all bacteria and dead or dying tissue from the area. He cleans out the inside of the root canal with special instruments called dental files. Dr. Shaffer uses an advanced endodontic rotary instrument called Light-speed. This thoroughly researched system has few limitations and allows Him to perform root canal therapy in one office visit, depending on the level of infection.
After cleaning and shaping the canals, Dr. Shaffer will then fill the canal we created in cleaning the root out with a man-made material so other bacteria cannot get down the root and re-infect the bone.
The “root canal” is finished after the root filling material is placed, but the restoration of the tooth is not finished. The second stage of the root canal treatment begins with a build up material being bonded into the center of the tooth to form a stable foundation for a crown to be made and cemented in. This bonded build up is necessary to give strength to the tooth since the root canal procedure removes a great deal of the inside of the tooth, and weakens the integrity or strength of the tooth. Then Dr. Shaffer will simply prepare the tooth for a crown, take an impression of the tooth and send it to the dental lab to be used for reference in making the dental crown. Once created, typically in two to three weeks, Dr. Shaffer will fit and cement the crown into place to replace the tooth structure you originally lost to decay or trauma. Finally, the tooth is as good as new.