Root Canals

If you are experiencing prolonged cold or hot sensitivity or a toothache, this may be a sign you need a root canal. When you feel these symptoms it is usually a problem with the nerve of the tooth. If neglected long enough, the painful tooth can become infected and even lead to swelling of your jaw. If you are experiencing any of these problems, please contact our office right away! We strive to see all emergencies the same day you call and we consider it one of the great privileges of our profession to help people get out of pain!

What causes teeth to need a root canal?

The nerve of a tooth is found deep inside the middle of the tooth. When dental decay is neglected for too long, it can cause destruction of the tooth all the way to the nerve. When this happens the nerve swells and causes a tooth ache. Other reasons teeth can need a root canal include a crack in the tooth that has reached the nerve. Sometimes a tooth can need a root canal for no apparent reason. Previous trauma to the tooth, such as an accident to the face and teeth, or orthodontic movement can predispose a tooth to have the nerve go bad. It is common to not know which tooth has gone bad as you may only feel pain in an entire region of the mouth. There are tests Dr. Spillers can perform to help determine the cause and location of the problem tooth. These can include x-rays and clinical tests that will help make the proper diagnosis.

Root Canal Procedure

Since root canals can cause great anxiety to many patients we first ensure that you are comfortable for the procedure. If desired, we offer nitrous oxide and oral or IV sedation. These can help you to feel comfortable and relaxed while we perform the procedure. After you are comfortable we numb the area and start the root canal. A small hole is made in the top of the tooth to gain access to the nerve. It is then removed and the tooth is shaped for the root canal filling material. The area where the nerve used to be is then filled and closed with a temporary filling. An x-ray is then taken to verify that the root canal went well and you can be released. If Dr. Spillers feels it is necessary, you may be prescribed pain medications and/or antibiotics.

What to expect after a root canal

Typically, the amount of pain a patient has before the root canal procedure will determine how much pain they experience afterwards. If a tooth is extremely painful before you visit the dentist you can expect it to feel about the same for a brief time after your root canal. This is when Dr. Spillers may prescribe pain medications. This pain should taper off and become less noticeable each day as the area around the tooth heals. If you have no pain prior to needing a root canal you can expect little to no discomfort after the procedure has been performed. Antibiotics are usually used sparingly and when needed. This can include times when you are visibly swollen or are running a fever.

What is the next step?

A root canal procedure is usually only half of the treatment needed to restore your tooth back to complete health. When performing a root canal, the tooth is weakened and can become more likely to fracture or break. To prevent this, most teeth that have root canals will need a crown done after the root canal is completed. This crown can protect the root canal and the remaining tooth from fracturing and possibly needing an extraction.

Referrals to Endodontists (root canal specialists)

Dr. Spillers is trained to do root canals and completes most of his own root canals in the office. Occasionally teeth can present complications for a variety of reasons. They may have significant curves or obstructions that make the tooth harder to treat with a root canal. Dr. Spillers will use his judgement and occasionally refer you to an endodontist if needed. Endodontists have 2-3 years of additional training beyond dental school and are specialists in performing root canals. Often they can complete the root canal in a shorter time, and with advanced equipment such as microscopes, they can manage any complicated teeth.