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Root Canals and Endodontics

Introduction to Endodontics and Root Canals
Common Causes of Toothaches
Root Canal Fact Sheet

Introduction to Endodontics and Root Canals

Endodontists’ specialized training allows them to perform even the most complex endodontic procedures with the highest rates of tooth survival.

Root canal treatment is needed when the pulp becomes inflamed or infected as a result of: injury; deep decay; repeated dental procedures; or a cracked or chipped tooth. Root canals performed by endodontists are a better and common alternative to tooth extraction.

Root canals save nearly 16 million teeth annually. Patients who have had root canals performed by an endodontist are six times more likely to describe them as painless than those who have never had a root canal. Eighty-five percent of patients who have had a root canal performed by an endodontist would return to an endodontist for future work. Saving natural teeth is priority #1. Natural teeth are more likely to withstand forces of mastication (chewing). Natural teeth look better than implants. Implants can lead to loss of gum sensitivity

During root canal treatment, the endodontist: removes the inflamed or infected pulp; cleans and shapes the inside of the canals (channels inside the tooth); and fills and seals the space.

After the root canal, the endodontist returns the patient to a general dentist to have a crown placed or other restorative work performed. After restoration, the tooth continues to function like any other tooth.

Common Causes of Toothaches

Here are the four most common causes of toothaches and the solutions endodontists typically recommend:

    Problem: Sensitivity to heat or cold. You're experiencing discomfort for a few moments after tasting hot or cold foods. This generally doesn't signal anything serious; it may just be a small amount of decay, a loose filling or minimal gum recession that exposes small areas of the root surface.

    Solution: Try using a toothpaste made for sensitive teeth. Also, because brushing sideways wears away exposed root surfaces, brush up and down with a soft brush. If this doesn't work, see your endodontist. One last thing: If you just had dental work, know that it could have inflamed the pulp, which are the nerves, blood vessels and connective tissue inside a tooth, causing temporary sensitivity. Wait two to four weeks, and if the problem continues, see your endodontist.

    Problem: Pain when biting. You feel a sharp pain when you bite down on food. This could mean decay, a loose filling, a crack in the tooth or even damage to the pulp tissue inside the tooth.

    Solution: See your endodontist. An endodontist will clean out the damaged pulp and fill and seal the remaining space, a treatment commonly known as a root canal. In addition, lingering pain after eating hot or cold foods is usually a sign of pulp damage and may mean a root canal is necessary.

    Problem: Sensitivity. You feel constant and severe tooth pain and pressure, your gums are swollen and your tooth is sensitive to the touch. You may have an abscess, a pus pocket in the jawbone caused by an infection inside the tooth.

    Solution:In this case, see an endodontist for evaluation and treatment to relieve the pain and to save the tooth. (Dr. Herbst says that if a dentist recommends a tooth extraction and an implant, always get an opinion from a specialist in saving your natural teeth—an endodontist like Dr. Herbst)

    Problem: Pressure. You're experiencing a dull ache and pressure in the upper teeth and jaw. This can be caused by a sinus headache or by grinding your teeth (often in your sleep), a condition also known as bruxism.

    Solution: For a sinus headache, see your physician. For bruxism and accompanying pain that may be severe and lasting more than several days, see your endodontist for evaluation.

Of course, it's better to avoid a toothache in the first place. The best way to minimize your chances of experiencing tooth pain is through regular brushing, flossing and dental checkups. But when tooth pain does occur, remember to visit your endodontist

Root Canal Fact Sheet

AAE Root Canal Fact Sheet

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