Robert Wilkoff DDS Blog

Dentistry Pennsylvania

Treating Root Canal Infections

February 24, 2014 @ 10:50 AM — by rwdds

Philadelphia Root Canal TreatmentAt our Philadelphia cosmetic dentistry practice, we aim to catch dental problems early on, limiting the amount of damage and discomfort they cause. In most circumstances, this means employing preventative practices such as routine professional cleanings and exams. Occasionally, cavities may need to be filled or gum disease treated. Unfortunately, though, not all problems are caught in time. When infection spreads to a tooth’s roots, it endangers the health of the entire tooth. At this point, root canal treatment is likely the best way to prevent tooth loss and restore a patient’s dental health. Look over the information below to better understand how root canal treatment works and how it can save your smile.

When Is Root Canal Necessary?

Most cavities form in the upper portion of a tooth, called the crown. Consequently, most cavities are also detected while they are still relatively small and confined to the crown. At this stage, the decay can simply be removed and filled with a traditional restoration - usually a dental filling. Although some inner tissue has been lost, the tooth is still generally healthy and strong.

However, when decay reaches the roots of a tooth, it compromises the tooth’s overall health. This is because roots house the dental pulp, which contains the nerves and connective tissues that provide a tooth with nutrients and cell repair. Once the pulp becomes infected, it is only a matter of time until the roots die and result in tooth loss. Root canal treatment (often shortened to simply “root canal”) is therefore a necessary procedure for patients who wish to preserve their teeth from total decay.

The Root Canal Procedure

If your dentist recommends root canal treatment, the procedure will begin with local anesthesia to prevent discomfort. Sedation may also be administered, depending on the patient and degree of pain experienced. Once the patient is ready, the following steps will be taken: 

  • Tissue will be removed from the crown of the tooth, similar to the process for a dental filling. This allows the dentist to remove decay in the crown, while also providing access down toward the tooth’s roots. Once the crown is free of decay, a smaller tool will be used to reach down to the roots.
  • The infected dental pulp is removed from the roots, effectively cleaning them of decay.
  • Antibiotics will be applied within the roots, prohibiting disease from forming or spreading.
  • A paste-like substance is used to seal the roots, reinforcing them and keeping out bacteria.
  • A dental filling is used within the crown of the tooth, restoring as much tissue as possible.

By the time root canal is necessary, decay has usually spread through a large portion of the tooth. As a result, it is left much weaker and reduced in size, even after being properly restored. Although some teeth may be strong enough to function with just a filling, a dental crown is often needed to protect and strengthen the tooth.

Recognizing Infected Roots

Ideally, patients should receive regular dental exams to avoid the possibility of advanced decay. Nevertheless, if you are concerned that you may be suffering from infected roots, consider the common symptoms. Namely, patients may experience:

  • Pain near or beneath the gum
  • Pain while eating
  • Swollen gum tissue or jaw
  • Heightened sensitivy to heat or cold
  • An abscess within gum or bone tissue
  • Discoloration of the tooth, near the gum line

No matter your dental history, any prolonged symptoms are likely indicative of a problem. Do not hesitate to seek professional help, as neglecting a problem will only increase the necessity for costly treatment. 

Schedule an Appointment

Root canal treatment can be an effective way to save individual teeth, or it can be combined with other treatments as part of a full mouth reconstruction. No matter your dental needs, we are committed to providing you with the services necessary to maintain your smile. Contact our office to schedule an appointment with Dr. Wilkoff and keep your teeth as healthy as possible.