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Root canal therapy is an important tool in a dentist’s arsenal to save and maintain our teeth. For many it is a scary procedure we try to avoid, but with a little knowledge, it can take some of the fear away and put your mind at ease. A root canal should not be avoided due to fear, understanding what to expect and why may help you get the treatment you need when you need it.

Root Canal Therapy Frequently Asked Questions

What Is Root Canal Therapy?

Root Canal Therapy (also referred to as root canal treatment or endodontic treatment)  is a dental procedure in which the diseased, decayed tooth, or damaged nerve of a tooth is removed and the inside areas (the nerve and canals within the roots) are cleaned, filled and sealed permanently to avoid infection. Without treatment, the surrounding tissues of the tooth (including the gums and bone) will become infected and a dental abscess can form.

A tooth’s nerve and blood vessel provide nutrients and hydration to a tooth as well as sense of temperature. It provides the sensation of hot or cold. The absence of a nerve will affect the strength of a tooth and make it become more brittle and susceptible to fracture if not protected by a crown.

How Do I Know If Root Canal Therapy Is Needed?

Common symptoms related to an infected tooth include tooth sensitivity (to hot or cold temperatures or even both), sensitivity to touch, toothache/sharp pain when chewing, swelling in the area of the tooth, or a bad taste in the mouth. These symptoms need to be evaluated by a dentist immediately to prevent further pain or damage.

What If I Ignore My Symptoms? Will They Just Go Away?

If the symptoms are ignored and treatment is not begun, the inflammation can progress to infection. Infection will continue to invade the tissues and tooth causing the tooth to become more painful and may become a health threat. Once the tooth “dies”, there are only two choices: extract the damaged tooth or perform root canal therapy.

How Is My Tooth Restored After Root Canal Therapy?

Depending on the extent of the damage to the tooth, your dentist can recommend a dental composite restoration to close the tooth or in most cases recommend a dental crown to protect the tooth against future damage. Over time, the tooth with the root canal therapy will dehydrate. This will make the tooth brittle and more susceptible to fracture/breaking. Most often, a crown is placed after root canal treatment is completed to protect the tooth and restore full function.

Is Root Canal Therapy Painful?

Typically, root canal therapy should cause no more discomfort than a simple dental filling). The pain most people associate with root canal therapy is due to the infection that develops. Root canal therapy actually relieves the pain by removing the dental infection and pressure.

What Are The Advantages Of Root Canal Therapy?

Saving the natural tooth with root canal treatment has many advantages:

-Efficient Chewing.

-Maintains Normal Biting Force And Sensation.

-Natural Looking Appearance.

-Protects other teeth from excessive wear or strain.

Root Canal Therapy helps you maintain your natural smile, continue eating the foods you love and limits the need for ongoing dental work. With proper care, most teeth that have had root canal treatment can last as long as other natural teeth and often for a lifetime.

Are There any Risks Or Complications?

Over 90 % of root canal therapy procedures are successful. However, there is a chance of a failed root canal. Sometimes the root canal therapy needs to be redone due to diseased canal offshoots that went unnoticed, the fracture of a filing instrument, or a fracture or perforation in the root. The signs of a root canal therapy failure are marked by a return of pain, pressure, and sensitivity.

Is There An Alternative To Root Canal Therapy?

There are other options. One includes extracting the infected tooth. Then the question becomes how to replace the tooth. A few options are possible and these include a dental bridge and a dental implant. The success rate of root canal therapy is over 90% so it is an excellent option to save your own natural tooth if at all possible.

What Can You Expect After Root Canal Therapy?

Most patients feel some sensitivity for a few days afterward. For many it is easily relieved with an over the counter pain medication (aleve or ibuprofen).

Can Root Canal Therapy Be Avoided?

Some tips include maintaining good dental hygiene, see your dentist and hygienist regularly, eat a well balanced diet, and wear a custom made sports mouthguards to decrease dental trauma. Root canals, unfortunately, are not entirely unavoidable, and may happen even with good hygiene and care.

Root Canal Therapy Conclusion

Many are fearful of the root canal therapy procedure but in reality it is not the horror that many believe it to be. Root canal therapy is an easy way to save your teeth in the event of dental trauma, decay, or dental infection. Knowing what to expect can go a long way to alleviating any fears you may have. It is important to save your natural teeth whenever possible.

Modern dentistry has evolved from the days of just a simple nightguard for grinders. A well trained dentist can treat a number of issues that were not even considered even 15 years ago. Bite appliances can be utilized in treatment of, the combination of clenching and bruxing, obstructive sleep apnea, TMJ pain, and sports mouthguards. These appliances allow patients to live more comfortable, healthier lives while enjoying the activites they love.

Teeth Clenching and Teeth Grinding (Bruxism)

These are fairly common issues for many Americans. Studies have been unable to pinpoint the exact number of people in the population that grind or clench but it is believed, that most people at some point in their life will experience this habit. This is sometimes considered to be a stress related habit. Most patients with these habits, do so while sleeping, so they are unaware of the forces exerted on their teeth while they sleep. Teeth clenching and grinding can cause a number of dental issues that include:

-Loose Teeth.

-Temperature Sensitivity.

-Tooth Chipping and Fracturing.

-Flattened teeth.

Bite Appliances are used to protect the teeth and also to re-train us to prevent continued grinding and clenching. These bite appliances are made from polymers and acrylics. They are generally custom made for each patient for added comfort and protection. These bite appliances work by not allowing the teeth to touch, making it restrictive to clench or grind. For those with an extreme form of these habits, it is not unusual to grind through the appliance over time necessitating a new appliance to be made.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)

This is sometimes known as the “silent killer”. Obstructive sleep apnea can be potentially a very serious sleep disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts during sleep time. Obstructive sleep apnea is believed to affect about 25% of the population. Obstructive sleep apnea is characterized by:

-Excessive daytime sleepiness.

-Both habits of clenching and grinding at night.

-Episodes of breathing cessation during sleep.

-Awakening abruptly accompanied by shortness of breath.

-Dry mouth or sore throat upon waking in the morning.

There are generally two types of bite appliances available for obstructive sleep apnea. These include over the counter ones and custom fabricated ones. The idea behind either of these bite appliances is to maintain an open airway during sleep to stop the disturbances from occurring.  These bite appliances work by repositioning the lower jaw, tongue, and soft palate. The custom fitted appliances tend to work far better than the generic ones.

TMJ Disorder appliances

These bite appliances help to reposition and decompress the jaw. TMJ disorder appliances are generally worn at night, and help to decrease the inflammation and pain associated with TMJ instability.

Athletic Mouthguards

These have really come into fashion in the last decade, as more and more research has gone into sports medicine, better airway maintenance and prevention of concussions. The old days of the generic “boil and bite” mouthguard are slowly fading away. We are now in the age of custom fitted athletic mouthguards that are able to not only give better protection against injury but also increase athletic performance. The thinking is, that how an athlete clenches his/her teeth together changes the way the brain reacts. When using a proper athletic mouthguard, your brain will be better able to handle temperature regulation as well as stress.

Bite Appliances Conclusion

Bite appliance therapy has been around for quite some time but recent advances (in both technology and theory) have made the treatments even more effective than before. A small investment in a good bite appliance can make the world of difference in the health and well being of your teeth for the rest of your life.