Soreness: A Serious Signal
Your teeth contain several layers: the outer protective enamel, a secondary layer of dentin, and an inner soft ‘pulp’ tissue layer. This inner pulp ‘chamber’ contains your tooth’s nerves, veins, arteries and lymph vessels.all of which function to keep your tooth alive and well. At the top each pulp chamber are between one and four thin divisions branching off toward the tip of the tooth root. These infamous ‘root canals’ serve to facilitate the ongoing activities within the tooth.
A deep cavity, traumatic injury, or fracture in one of your teeth may easily allow bacteria to enter and infect this important pulp area. In fact, such bacteria can either damage or actually kill the pulp, stimulating increased blood flow and cellular activity, and thereby building up tremendous pressure within the tooth itself. And that’s where the ‘root canal’ gets its terrible reputation: since the pressure cannot be relieved from inside the tooth, severe pain is the result. What’s more, the infection can spread quickly, setting off a chain reaction of even more serious and damaging events: degeneration of the surrounding bone, tooth loss, and increased pain. Although the discomfort may occur initially only when biting down with that tooth, or when taking in hot/cold substances, it quickly becomes constant if left untreated.
Of course at this point, most people seek emergency dental care, but it’s usually too late to save the tooth. Instead, extraction may be the only choice. And extraction has its own undesirable side effects: adjacent teeth can shift and move into improper, crooked positions, leading to malocclusion or a poor bite. In turn, a bad bite puts uneven wear and tear on the entire dentition, leading to further dental problems down the road.
All of which simply underlines the importance of seeing us at the first sign of pain or soreness in any of your teeth. If it’s early enough along in the disease process, we can test the problem tooth and recommend root canal therapy.
Relief: A Routine Result
The words ‘root canal’ often strike fear into dental patients. However, with today’s excellent analgesics and anesthetics, together with technology such as the nickel-titanium rotary drill, the once dreaded ‘root canal’ treatment is actually quite routine. In fact, the entire process often requires only one appointment; local anesthesia is used throughout to eliminate pain.
After numbing the area, we will first isolate the problem tooth by placing a rubber sheet around it. Next, he will gently drill a gap down from the crown into infected pulp chamber, clear out all diseased pulp, and reshape the inside area. For this process, Dr. Ellis uses a highly flexible nickel-titanium rotary drill that simply follows the canals’ natural routes, thereby requiring no carving. This insures not only a thorough cleaning, but simplifies the healing process and helps keep post-procedural soreness to a minimum. After this cleaning is complete, we may also apply bacteria-fighting medication into the canals.
At this point, there are three options, depending on the extent of the problem: either seal the crown temporarily to guard against recontamination, leave it open to drain, or fill the canals. If you’re given a temporary filling, we will probably remove it at a second visit, then fill the pulp chamber and canal with either a rubber-like substance called gutta percha, or another recontamination prevention material. If your tooth is weak, we may reinforce it by inserting a metal post above the canal.
In any case, after we have filled the cleaned out area, you can consider your tooth permanently sealed. As a final step, we may strengthen your tooth’s structure and improve its appearance with a porcelain crown.
Healing: A Happy Ending
Root canal treatments are successful over 95 percent of the time. In very rare instances, an overlooked diseased canal offshoot goes unnoticed, requiring the procedure to be redone. As for post-procedural soreness, you may experience slight tissue inflammation, which is typically controllable with over-the-counter analgesics. And of course, Dr. Gutierrez will schedule a follow-up exam to follow up on your healing process. You’ll find that your repaired tooth operates very normally, although it’s wise to avoid chewing on hard foods on that tooth. Finally, remember to visit our office regularly for cleanings and checkups.