San Antonio Dentist

Root CanalSan Antonio, TX

An emergency root canal is performed to save and repair a tooth that has been infected or badly damaged. This is often the result of the pulp chamber being compromised by decay or trauma. The only other option the patient typically has when a tooth has an exposed pulp chamber is an extraction. Since an extracted tooth would need to be replaced with an implant or other prosthetic, a root canal is typically the best option in these situations.

When it comes to dental procedures, root canals have the worst reputation as a painful ordeal that should be avoided at all costs. That is simply not the case anymore though. Sure, root canals were quite the experience decades ago when anesthetic options were limited, but it is a completely different experience nowadays. Patients are given a local anesthetic prior to the procedure, so all the person feels are vibrations and pressure from the dentist working on their tooth. By the time most people go in for a root canal, they have experienced significantly more pain living with a decayed/damaged tooth.

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What to know about a root canal

A person's teeth have a softer inner layer called the dental pulp. This inner layer extends from the tip of a tooth's roots in the jawbone to the crown. The pulp houses the connective tissue, blood vessels and nerves of the tooth.

The pulp chamber is completely sealed off from the saliva, acids and bacteria in the mouth, but once it is cracked or broken, bacteria can get into it. The bacteria can lead to an infection, an abscess or the tooth falling out. Signs that a person needs a root canal include:

  • A deep hole in a tooth
  • Swollen neck or face
  • Inflamed gums
  • Increased sensitivity to cold and hot food items
  • The tooth becomes discolored
  • Reoccurring pimples on the gums

  • When these symptoms occur, emergency treatment is needed to bring an end to the pain.

    What to expect when getting a root canal

    A root canal often requires multiple visits to the dentist. The procedure can be performed by an endodontist or a general dentist. Endodontists are dentists who specialize in diagnosing, treating and preventing injuries and diseases that affect the dental pulp. Most root canal procedures can be performed by general dentists, but if there is a high level of difficulty regarding the patient's tooth, the person will likely be referred to an endodontist.

    During the appointment, the first thing the dentist will do is use an x-ray to see what is going on inside the patient's tooth. The dentist will look for signs of an infection around the area. The root canal procedure starts with the dentist injecting the soft tissue near the tooth with a local anesthetic. This is not always necessary if the tooth's nerve is already dead, but most dentists still do it as a precaution.

    The dentist will place a rubber dam on each side of the tooth to keep the area dry during the procedure. A hole is bored into the affected tooth. This allows the dentist to reach the contents of the pulp chamber which are removed with a series of files of varying diameters. They are used to scrub and scrape the walls of the pulp chamber. Sodium hypochlorite or water is periodically used to wash debris away while the pulp chamber is being cleaned out.

    Medication is applied once the tooth is thoroughly cleaned if there is an infection. The tooth is then sealed. If the infection is severe, the dentist might wait a few weeks before sealing the tooth to ensure the infection has been stopped. A rubber substance known as gutta-percha is used to seal a tooth after a root canal. A filling may be used to fill up the access hole.

    That technically completes the root canal, but it is standard for dentists to fit the patient with a crown afterward. The crown protects the tooth from further damage, and it restores the appearance and function of the tooth. In other words, a crown allows the patient to forget they have had a root canal.

    Covering a tooth with a crown is not always necessary, however, the newly restored tooth is not as strong as a healthy one, and it can be damaged by further decay or the forces that are involved in chewing.

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    Root canal alternatives

    Getting a root canal is not always an option when dealing with a compromised pulp chamber. If the damage is too severe, the tooth might not be worth saving since it is likely to eventually disintegrate. For other patients, the infection is so severe, extracting the tooth is the safest option. A tooth infection can easily spread to the jawbone, bloodstream and vital organs like the brain and heart.

    When a tooth is extracted, a replacement prosthetic is often recommended. This can be a dental implant, partial dentures or dental bridge. Implants are typically the preferred option since this is the closest thing to a natural tooth.

    Life after getting a root canal

    The best part of a root canal is how effective the procedure is. Most symptoms, especially the pain, has typically stopped by the time the anesthetic wears off and prescription painkillers are rarely prescribed afterward. The patient just needs to avoid doing things that might aggravate the tooth, but for the most part, they are free to go about their daily activity. The entire procedure typically takes about an hour or so.

    If the tooth has been infected, the patient might be prescribed antibiotics to fight it off. The medication should be taken exactly as prescribed by the dentist to ensure the infection goes away.

    A root canal brings an end to your pain

    If you find yourself dealing with any of the symptoms listed above, a root canal can bring an end to the excruciating pain that is often associated with a damaged pulp chamber. There is little pain involved with the procedure, and its effects are immediately felt. Stop by our San Antonio office to learn more about root canals and get the emergency relief you seek.