About Your Tooth
Endodontics, a dental specialty recognized by the American Dental Association, concentrates on treatment of the pulp (root canal) and surrounding tissue of the tooth. In addition to dental training, an endodontist receives two years of postgraduate training in performing root canal therapy and other procedures involving the pulp – the soft inner tissue of the tooth.
A tooth consists of two main parts: the crown, which is visible in your mouth; and the root, which is anchored by surrounding bone and gum tissue. Inside each root are one or more channels called "root canals" that run the length of the root. Contained within the canal(s) are blood vessels, nerves, and soft tissue that are collectively called the pulp (often referred to as the "nerve").
The pulp can be irreversibly injured or infected after episodes of decay, fracture, trauma, or periodontal (gum) disease. The tooth then may become sensitive to hot or cold, or it could become tender. Sometimes the patient may experience spontaneous or radiating pain, and swelling. When this occurs, it is necessary to remove the diseased pulp tissue. This procedure is known as endodontic therapy. Since only the pulp is removed from the root canal, the root continues to function normally because its supporting tissues remain intact. It is important to remove the injured pulp because it may become infected and spread disease to the tissues surrounding the tooth.
What Is a Root Canal?
Root canal, or endodontic treatment, preserves a tooth in which the inner pulp has been damaged by injury or infection. Root canal treatment is one of the most common dental procedures performed, with over 14 million treatments every year, and has a 90 - 95% success rate.
After the tooth is anesthetized, the diseased tissue is removed from the root, and the canal system is thoroughly cleaned and sealed. The treatment is usually completed in one or two visits, and the appointments typically last from one to two hours. Despite common perceptions, root canal treatment is usually painless.
If your tooth is not amenable to endodontic treatment, or the chance of success is not favorable, Dr. Heitman will inform you at the time of consultation or whenever a complication becomes evident.
After Your Treatment
The tooth may be tender or sore for a few days, especially to touch or bite. This reaction is normal and has no bearing on the successful outcome of treatment. Usually, ibuprofen (Advil), aspirin, Tylenol, or any similar pain medication that you take for minor discomfort will take care of the soreness. If you have severe pain that is not relieved by one of these medications, or if swelling should occur, please call our office. If an antibiotic has been prescribed, take the antibiotics on schedule and always until completed.
If you have discomfort or swelling, use hot salt water as follows: place one teaspoon of salt in a glass of hot water. Take a sip and hold it in the area of soreness or swelling until the water cools off. Then empty this out and take another sip. Repeat this procedure for five minutes every hour as needed. This increases the circulation in the area, eases the discomfort, and helps the body fight any infection that may be present.
Eating or drinking is not usually a problem after the appointment. However, the tooth may be sore, or if it is a posterior tooth, it may be weakened until your dentist restores it with a crown, so in those situations, avoid heavy chewing on the tooth.