My Blog

Posts for tag: root canal

LasersAddingNewPrecisionandEfficiencytoRootCanalTreatments

Root canal treatments are an essential part of dental care — countless teeth with deep decay would be lost each year without it. Now, this traditional dental care procedure is advancing to a new level of precision through lasers.

Root canal treatments have a simple goal: access a tooth's infected pulp and root canals, clean out the infected tissue and fill the empty pulp chamber and canals with a special filling. Once filled, the access is sealed and a porcelain crown later placed for additional protection against re-infection.

In the traditional procedure, we perform these steps manually with a dental drill and hand instruments. We may also need to remove a good portion of tooth structure, both healthy and infected tissue. A laser, on the other hand, is a highly focused beam of light with the ability to interact with healthy and infected tissues differently: destroying infected tissue while having no effect on nearby healthy tissue. The end result: we may be able to remove less healthy tissue with lasers than with the conventional procedure.

Lasers are also helpful with softening and precisely molding the filling material within each canal's particular shape. And, early reports seem to indicate a higher degree of comfort for patients (less drill noise and need for anesthesia), less bleeding and faster recovery times than the conventional approach.

But as a tool for root canal treatments, lasers do have a couple of disadvantages. While light travels in a straight line, root canals are rarely straight — conventional instruments with curved designs usually accommodate odd canal shapes better than a laser. Lasers can also raise temperatures within a tooth that can damage healthy tissue, both within the pulp and outward into the dentin.

Still, lasers for root canal treatments appear promising with some dentists using a combination of lasers and manual techniques to garner benefits from both approaches. While you won't see lasers replacing the traditional root canal treatment anytime soon, the future looks bright for more efficient ways to treat deep tooth decay.

If you would like more information on your options for root canal therapy, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation.

By John G. Fisher, DMD
May 22, 2018
Category: Dental Procedures
Tags: root canal  
RootCanalAwarenessWeekATimetoLearnHowTeethAreSaved

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of the month of May? Balmy breezes? Sweet-smelling flowers? How about root canal treatment?

The last item might seem out of place…but for the last ten years, Root Canal Awareness week has been celebrated in May. So let’s take a closer look at this important—and often misunderstood—dental procedure.

What we commonly call a “root canal” is a special treatment that can save diseased teeth which might otherwise be lost. But the root canal itself is actually a set of hollow, branching passages deep inside the hard outer tissue of the tooth. The tiny “canals” contain the tooth’s soft pulp, including nerves, blood vessels and connective tissue. These tissues help teeth grow during childhood but aren’t necessary in healthy adult teeth—and, what’s worse, they can become infected via deep cavity or a crack in the tooth’s outer layers.

When bacteria infect the pulp tissue, the inflammation often causes intense discomfort. In time, the harmful microorganisms can also pass through the tooth’s root and into the tissue of the jaw, resulting in a painful abscess. Eventually, if it isn’t treated, the tooth will likely be lost.

Root canal treatment is designed to remove the infection, relieve the pain…and save the tooth. It is usually performed under anesthesia for your comfort. To begin the procedure, a small hole is made in the tooth’s enamel to give access to the pulp; then, tiny instruments are used to remove the diseased tissue and disinfect the tooth. Finally, it is sealed up against re-infection. Following treatment, a cap (or crown) is often needed to restore the tooth’s full function and appearance.

Despite some rumors you may have heard, root canal treatment is neither very painful nor likely to cause other health problems. So if you come across these discredited ideas, remember that dentists and dental specialists called endodontists perform some 25 million root canal procedures every year—and this treatment method  has been validated for decades.

Of course, like any medical procedure, root canal treatment is not 100% successful. While the procedure has a very high success rate, it’s possible that additional treatments will be needed in some cases. However, the alternative—extracting the tooth—has similar potential downsides; plus a replacement tooth will be needed to avoid the health and lifestyle troubles caused by missing teeth. But one thing is certain: Ignoring disease in the tooth’s soft tissues isn’t a good move, because the infection won’t go away on its own—and down the road it will only get worse.

So this May, while you’re taking time to smell the flowers, spare a thought for the often-misunderstood root canal. If you’d like more information on root canal treatment, please contact us or schedule a consultation. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine articles “A Step-By-Step Guide to Root Canal Treatment” and “Root Canal Treatment: What You Need to Know.”

By John G. Fisher, DMD
August 22, 2015
Category: Dental Procedures
Tags: root canal   root resorption  
RootResorptioninAdultTeethisaCauseforConcern

As a new permanent tooth develops, the roots undergo a process of breakdown and growth. As older cells dissolve (a process called resorption), they’re replaced by newer cells laid down (deposition) as the jaw develops. Once the jaw development ends in early adulthood, root resorption normally stops. It’s a concern, then, if it continues.

Abnormal root resorption most often begins outside of the tooth and works its way in, beginning usually around the neck-like (or cervical) region of the tooth. Also known as external cervical resorption (ECR), the condition usually shows first as pink spots where the enamel is being undermined. As these spots continue to erode, they develop into cavity-like areas.

While its causes haven’t been fully confirmed, ECR has been linked to excessive pressure on teeth during orthodontic treatment, periodontal ligament trauma, teeth-grinding or other excessive force habits, and bleaching techniques performed inside a tooth. Fortunately, ECR is a rare occurrence, and most people who’ve had these problems won’t experience it.

When it does occur, though, it must be treated as quickly as possible because the damage can progress swiftly. Treatment depends on the size and location of the resorption: a small site can often be treated by surgically accessing the tooth through the gum tissue and removing the offending tissue cells. This is often followed with tooth-colored dental material that’s bonded to the tooth to replace lost structure.

A root canal treatment may be necessary if the damage has extended to the pulp, the tooth’s interior. However, there’s a point where the resorption becomes too extensive to save the tooth. In these cases, it may be necessary to remove the tooth and replace it with a dental implant or similar tooth restoration.

In its early stages, ECR may be difficult to detect, and even in cases where it’s been diagnosed more advanced diagnostics like a CBCT scanner may be needed to gauge the extent of damage. In any case, it’s important that you have your teeth examined on a regular basis, at least twice a year. In the rare chance you’ve developed ECR, the quicker it’s found and treatment begun, the better your chances of preserving the tooth.

If you would like more information on root resorption, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation.

By John G. Fisher, DMD
February 27, 2015
Category: Dental Procedures
Tags: root canal   dental injuries  
SevereDentalInjuriesMayRequireEndodonticTreatment

If you regularly participate in sports or other physical activity, you’re at a higher risk for dental injuries. While chipped teeth are the most common result of these injuries, a few may result in more serious trauma — dislodged, cracked or knocked out teeth. In these cases, the core of the tooth — the pulp — and the root may have been damaged. Saving the tooth may require endodontic treatment and possibly the expertise of a specialist in the field, an endodontist.

Endodontics, from the Greek words for “within” and “tooth,” is a specialty of dentistry that treats disease or damage affecting the inner parts of a tooth, particularly the pulp chamber, the root canals, and the root. While all dentists are trained in endodontic procedures, an endodontist has advanced training, experience and specialized equipment to address complex cases.

The type of endodontic treatment needed for an injured tooth will depend on the extent of damage. A mature, permanent tooth with pulp damage, for example, may require a root canal treatment. In this procedure the pulp chamber and root canals are thoroughly cleaned out, and then are filled with a special filling to prevent any future infection. Later the tooth should be crowned to permanently seal it. Although a general dentist may perform a root canal, more complex cases, such as a tooth with an extensive root canal network, may need to be performed by an endodontist using microscopic equipment.

A tooth that has undergone severe trauma, especially a knocked out tooth, will need extensive follow-up care by a general dentist and possibly an endodontist to improve its chances of long-term survival. Because of the severity, the tooth may lose viability and the body ultimately may begin to reject it. For this reason, the tooth should be monitored on a regular basis and may need further treatment from time to time, even up to five years after the injury.

One final word: if you participate in sports or exercise activity, you can significantly reduce your risk of dental injury with a mouthguard. There are various types, but the best protection is one custom designed to fit the specific contours of your mouth. We’ll be glad to advise you further on how to protect your teeth from injury.

If you would like more information on dental injury prevention and treatment, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Trauma & Nerve Damage to Teeth.”

AlternativestoRootCanalTreatmentCanSaveanInjuredImmatureTooth

When a permanent tooth has been injured, our first priority should be to save it. A root canal treatment (where the interior pulp of the tooth is removed and the pulp chamber and root canals are filled and sealed) is usually the best approach for tooth preservation.

An immature permanent tooth, however, presents a different challenge. While the pulp is less essential to a mature tooth’s vitality, it serves a critical purpose in the tooth’s early development before early adulthood. The pulp produces layers of dentin necessary for the tooth’s root system development. Completely removing the pulp at this stage may retard root development and cause the tooth to eventually weaken, and become brittle and darkened.

For younger teeth, we should therefore use alternative techniques that preserve as much healthy pulp as possible. One of these alternatives is Indirect Pulp Therapy, used when the pulp hasn’t been exposed by the trauma. With this technique we remove as much damaged dentin as possible while preserving the harder dentin closer to the pulp. After applying an antibacterial agent to protect against infection, and then filling and sealing the tooth, the pulp can continue to produce dentin in a normal way.

If pulp exposure has occurred, some form of pulpotomy — the partial removal of any damaged or infected pulp — would be in order. Our goal here is to leave as much of the pulp as possible, and then apply substances that stimulate the remaining pulp to create dentin. The most common type of growth substances are calcium hydroxide or mineral trioxide aggregate (MTA).

If the pulp isn’t at all salvageable, we may then turn to a procedure known as apexification. After removing the pulp we insert MTA at the root end of the tooth, then fill and seal the remaining interior as in a regular root canal treatment. The MTA will help the surrounding bone to heal and continue to grow around the root to further support the tooth.

Recent research into pulp stem cells promises further advances in this area. The regenerative qualities of stem cells could eventually help us “engineer” root development. Until then, there are still effective ways to give a young, damaged tooth a fighting chance to survive.

If you would like more information on preserving injured teeth, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Saving New Permanent Teeth After Injury.”