More than 90% of all Americans have had decay in their permanent teeth by the time they are 64 years old. Nearly 25% of those have untreated cavities. Tooth decay is the second most common disorder today, topped only by the common cold. Moderate decay that is not too deep can be treated with a filling, inlay, or onlay. However, if a tooth has decay that runs deep, bacteria may reach the root and cause infection or inflammation. This can also happen when a tooth has fractured or suffered other trauma.
Historically the only treatment available for a dying tooth was extraction, but modern dentists provide advanced treatments to help patients keep their natural teeth whenever possible. Root canal therapy is one such treatment that can prevent extraction by treating the infection from inside the tooth. A root canal is not the painful process that is described by many outdated myths about this treatment. Most patients describe it as “boring”, or similar to having a tooth filled. And many of Dr. Koppikar’s patients have actually fallen asleep while getting a root canal!
The doctor makes a small opening in the chewing surface of the tooth to access the pulp chamber. The infected pulp, which contains the nerves and blood vessels, is carefully removed with tiny precision instruments. The emptied chamber is cleaned, enlarged, and disinfected to ensure all bacteria have been removed. If the tooth infection was severe, the chamber may be filled with liquid antibiotics and temporarily sealed. Antibiotic pills may be prescribed and the tooth is given time to heal.
When the infection has cleared, the temporary seal is removed and the tooth is filled with a natural rubber, called gutta percha. This will help keep the chamber free of bacteria and serve as a strong center for the tooth. The opening is sealed with normal composite dental filling. After a root canal treatment, the tooth may become brittle over time. In many cases, a dental crown will be placed over the treated tooth to prevent further damage.
In some cases, patients may have some post treatment soreness and sensitivity, which will resolve in a few days. Most patients report little post treatment discomfort, and if it does occur, it can be managed with over the counter pain relievers. If you are suffering with the pain of an infected tooth, call (602) 954-8200 and schedule an appointment with Dr. Sameet Koppikar at Biltmore Dental Center. He can gently relieve your pain and save your tooth.