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When a tooth becomes inflamed or infected, a root canal may be the only way to heal the tooth and save it. Restoring a tooth involves removing the interior pulp, which includes the nerve, lymph tissue and blood vessels. The hollowed-out chamber is then cleaned and filled with a strong, flexible material.
Causes and Symptoms of an Infected Tooth
Root canals are often associated with patient neglect: When a person ignores a cavity and the associated pain, the decay spreads deep into the tooth, ultimately reaching the inner nerve. But the nerve may also be exposed to air and microbes as a result of trauma, cracking or chipping of the tooth, or a crown or filling that has loosened.
Warning signs for an infected tooth include pain, changes in tooth color, swelling of the gums, sudden sensitivity to hot or cold foods and changes in jaw function, including difficulty chewing and biting down.
Root Canal Procedure Details
As a first step, your experienced Contos Smile Center dentist will prescribe oral antibiotics that you will take several days before your root canal. During the procedure, your dentist will take a digital X-ray of the tooth, anesthetize the surrounding area and stabilize the tooth with a rubber dam.
Using a narrow drill, your dentist will remove infected parts of the interior, along with all debris. The key to the success of your root canal is to thoroughly clean the entire length of the root. A special probe known as an apex locator adds precision to the process by helping the dentist identify the tip of the root.
Once all pulp and debris are removed, the interior area will be disinfected and sealed with either a resin material or a special biocompatible material known as gutta-percha. This flexible composite is applied with a “heat gun” and allowed to expand and harden over a period of about 15 minutes. The tooth is then topped with a crown or filling to create an air-tight seal that protects the tooth from further exposure to air and microbes. In some cases, a temporary filling will be used to give the tooth additional time to heal.
Why Root Canals are the Last Chance to Save a Tooth
Although root canals are routine procedures, performed millions of times each year, they are also one of your last lines of defense against major problems. When a patient needs a root canal, it is typically a sign that oral health has been ignored over a period of months or years, and that serious complications are on the horizon. When a root canal is no longer possible, the tooth will need to be removed. In addition, the infection can seriously threaten your overall health if it spreads into the jaw, head and neck.
For more information on root canals or to schedule an appointment in our Chicago office, call (773) 973-0531 or email Contos Smile Center today.
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