PaTIENT EDUCATION

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From root canals to endodontic surgery, West GA Endodontics is equipped to handle all of your endodontic needs. To help you understand your options, we've included descriptions of some of our leading services as supported by the American Association of Endodontics.

Endodontics

What is Endodontics?

Endodontics is a specialized form of dentistry that treats diseases or injuries that affect the root tip or nerve of the tooth and the structures called the pulp chamber, pulp, and root canal of the tooth. Root canal therapy is the most common endodontic procedure. Endodontics is one of the nine specialties recognized by the American Dental Association; it was recognized as a dental specialty in 1963.

Endodontic treatment, commonly called "root canal treatment", is a common dental procedure that removes damaged tissue from inside the root canals of a tooth, thereby significantly lengthening the life of the tooth. Endodontic treatment significantly restores once damaged teeth and is a recognized and superior alternative to tooth extraction as a means of treating damaged interior structures such as pulp.

Root Canal

Treatment Explained

Underneath each tooth's outer enamel is an area of soft tissue called the pulp, which carries the tooth's nerves, veins, and arteries. Root canals are very small, thin passageways that branch off from the top pulp chamber through the root tip. A tooth can have up to four root canals.

Root canal treatments typically affect the root tip or nerve of the tooth and the structures called the pulp chamber, pulp, and root canal. The procedure involves removal of diseased or damaged pulp inside the tooth, the cleaning, disinfection and reshaping of the inner canals beneath the tooth, and preparation of the tooth for later placement of a filling, and in most cases, an artificial crown made of porcelain or gold. The procedure enables you to keep most of your original tooth.

Root canal treatment usually takes one to three visits. Here is what normally occurs during a root canal procedure:

  • First, your gums are numbed with a topical substance and a local anesthetic is injected into the nearby area to completely numb your teeth, gums, tongue, and skin. For patients with an acute low tolerance for pain or anxiety, nitrous oxide gas may be used.

  • A small sheet of rubber is placed over the surrounding area of the affected tooth in order to isolate it from surrounding teeth and prevent you from swallowing debris.

  • A small hole is made in the top of the tooth in order to access the pulp chamber, pulp and root canals. The pulp is removed, the pulp chamber cleaned and the canals are cleared of debris and tissue. In most cases, the canals are first filled with antibiotic medications and temporary filling materials up to the gum line. Depending on the circumstances, the root canal may be left open for a few days in order to drain. In some cases, the canals may be filled right away with a final root canal filling.

  • If the canals are not permanently sealed, the temporary filling is removed and the pulp chamber and canal(s) are filled with a rubber-like material to prevent recontamination. If the tooth is still weak, a metal post may be inserted above the canal filling to reinforce the tooth.

  • Once filled, the area is permanently sealed, an impression of the tooth is made so an artificial crown can be made for placement over the affected tooth. In some cases, a temporary crown is placed over the tooth until the permanent gold or porcelain crown is made and cemented in, usually by your family dentist.

Reasons for root canal treatment:

  • Root canal treatment is called for when the soft tissue inside the tooth's canals, also called the pulp, becomes inflamed or infected by bacteria. The most common cause of pulp death is a fractured tooth or a deep cavity, which can expose the pulp to the bacteria found in your saliva. A traumatic injury or blow to the tooth could cause swelling and inflammation of the tissues in and around the tooth, providing an opportunistic path, usually through a crack, for bacteria to collect. Repeated dental procedures on the same tooth could eventually weaken and compromise the original tooth, allowing pathogens to enter the inner canals. An infected pulp can lead to swelling and possibly fever; left untreated, infected pulp could leak harmful toxins from the root ends, leading to an abscess and erosion of the bone beneath the tooth.

Post-treatment care:

  • A root canal procedure is designed to restore a damaged inner tooth, giving it the same lifespan as its original. With proper care following your procedure, your restored tooth should heal with about a 95% success rate. It is normal to feel some tenderness in the area over the next few days as your body undergoes the natural healing process. You may also feel some tenderness in your jaw from keeping it open for an extended period of time. These symptoms are temporary and usually respond very well to over-the-counter pain medications.

  • It is important for you to follow the instructions on how to take these medications. Remember that narcotic medications, if prescribed, may make you drowsy, and at least eight hours should pass prior to operating dangerous machinery or driving a car after taking them. Your tooth may continue to feel slightly different from your other teeth for some time after your root canal treatment has been completed. However, if you have severe pain or pressure that lasts more than a few days, contact our office.

ENDODONTIC DISEASE

Endodontic disorders are generally diseases or injuries that affect the root tip or nerve of the tooth and the structures called the pulp chamber, pulp, and root canal of the tooth. In many cases, it is caused by severe decay or injury that causes an abscess or infection in the tissue below the tooth, or even the jaw bone.

Tooth Decay

Weakening of the Teeth

Tooth decay is another name for the disease known as "caries", or cavities. A cavity is the result of your tooth enamel, dentin, or cementum being destroyed over long-term exposure to harmful bacteria and other germs.

Cavities, while not life threatening and highly preventable, affect most people to some degree during their lifetime. Tooth decay is caused by your teeth being frequently exposed to foods rich in carbohydrates (starches and sugars) like soda pop, candy, ice cream, milk, and cakes. Ironically, even fruits, vegetables and juices can lead to tooth decay.

When these foods break down in your mouth, they release natural bacteria, which eventually turns into a colorless film on your teeth and gums called plaque. The plaque interacts with deposits left on your teeth from sugary and starchy foods to produce acids. These acids break down tooth enamel over time by dissolving, or demineralizing, the mineral structure of your teeth. This leads to tooth decay and weakening of the teeth.

Teeth Grinding

Excessive Enamel Wear

Also known as "bruxism", Grinding or clenching your teeth and the resulting excessive wear of the enamel can lead to a host of dental problems.

In many cases, teeth grinding occurs unintentionally during sleep. Teeth grinders, or bruxers, often also bite their fingernails, pencils and chew the inside of their cheeks.

About one in three people suffer from bruxism, which can easily be treated.

Teeth grinding over time can lead to hypersensitive teeth. Bruxers experience jaw pain, tense muscles and headaches, along with excessive wear on their teeth. Forceful biting when not eating may also cause the jaw to move out of proper balance.

Signs of bruxism Some of the signs of bruxism include:

  • Tips of the teeth look flat. Teeth are worn down so much that the enamel is rubbed off, exposing the inside of the tooth (dentin).

  • Pain in the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) -the jaw- which may manifest itself as a popping and clicking sound.

  • Tongue indentations. Anger, anxiety, pain and frustration can trigger teeth grinding.

    If your dentist notices signs of bruxism, prescribed therapy may include behavior modification techniques to learn how to rest the tongue, teeth and lips properly.

    Your dentist may also recommend a mouth appliance, such as a bitesplint or "occlusal guard" that is worn at night to absorb the forces of biting. This appliance can prevent future damage to the teeth.

    Biofeedback is sometimes used to measure muscle activity and teach patients how to reduce muscle activity when the biting force becomes too great.

Abscessed Tooth

Infections

An abscessed tooth is a pocket of pus, usually caused by some kind of infection and the spread of bacteria from the root of the tooth to the tissue just below or near the tooth.

In general, a tooth that has become abscessed is one whose underlying pulp (the tooth's soft core) has become infected or swollen. The pulp contains nerves, blood vessels and connective tissue, and lies within the tooth. It extends from the crown of the tooth, to the tip of the root, in the bone of the jaws.

An abscessed tooth can be an extremely painful condition.

In some cases, antibiotics are administered in an attempt to kill an infection. If antibiotics are ineffective and an abscess is shown to be damaging the pulp or lower bony structures, a root canal procedure may be needed to remove the dead pulp and restore the tooth to a healthy state.