Typical tooth decay and cavities can be treated by drilling and filling the tooth’s surface when the enamel or dentin is infected. However, when the inside of the tooth, known as the tooth pulp, becomes infected, a root canal must be performed to save the remainder of the tooth from needing to be extracted. Our staff at Aspen Smile Dentistry is professionally trained to perform root canals and has saved numerous teeth with successful treatment. 


What is a Root Canal Supposed to Accomplish?

When a root canal is performed, all connective tissue, blood vessels, and cells within the pulp are drilled out to kill the infection and prevent spread completely. The pulp cannot heal itself once an infection has taken root. Sometimes an infection can destroy the root and nerves, meaning the pain of the infection goes away, but it does not eliminate the need for a root canal taking place because the infection can still spread to gums and other teeth. 


What Causes Tooth Pulp to Become Infected?

The tooth’s outer layers completely seal the pulp to keep it protected from possible infection. This means that the only way for the pulp to become infected is through cavities and tooth decay that allow bacteria to get into the center of the tooth. Broken or fractured teeth can also create paths for disease-causing bacteria to enter the tooth’s pulp. This is why it is critical to come in regularly for dental examinations to catch cavities early. It is also essential to have tooth cracks and chips checked by a dentist, even if you are not experiencing any severe pain or symptoms.


Root Canal Treatment

Before a root canal begins, you are treated with local anesthetics to alleviate pain. The whole procedure should be pain-free, so should you feel any pain at all, you can raise your hand so we can apply a more targeted anesthetic so you are entirely comfortable. 

Once your mouth is numb and ready for treatment, we begin by drilling your tooth down into the pulp canal with metal files. The pulp is then removed from inside the tooth in order to eradicate the infection. Once the canal has been hollowed out, it is cleaned and then filled so that there is no room inside for new infections to build up inside. 

At the end of the procedure, the tooth is sealed off to prevent infection from getting in. A temporary crown is put in place at that point to reinforce and strengthen the tooth, while a new crown is designed and produced in a lab to fit into your mouth and naturally match your smile perfectly. A second appointment is needed to remove the temporary crown and attach the permanent one in place.


Why is a Root Canal Better than Extraction?

Some people may find the root canal procedure intimidating and want to have the tooth extracted instead, which is typically less expensive than a root canal procedure. However, there are many reasons to “save the tooth” instead of removing it. One is your bite, which will be stronger and better with the natural tooth in place. The original tooth’s presence also reinforces the supporting jaw, gum, and surrounding muscle structures. The decay from an extraction site can cause facial sagging, muscle weakness, and give a new path for bacteria to get into gums and cause further infections. 

A tooth with a root canal done is not “dead,” as it still contains the living tissue of the dentin and enamel. Adult teeth can survive by receiving nourishment from the surrounding gums and teeth. A capped tooth after root canal therapy can last a lifetime with good dental hygiene and dental habits, like twice-daily brushing and flossing.