Are you in need of a root canal? Are you wondering what to expect? We’re here to help!
We interviewed expert endodontist Dr. Michael Adams of Advanced Endodontics to get answers to your root canal questions.
Question: What are the main symptoms of a root canal system infection that patients should be aware of?
Answer: There are a number of signs you need a root canal, but two of the most common are:
- Lingering pain in a tooth after drinking hot or cold liquids
- Pain associated with biting or chewing pressure
Sometimes a patient will report minimal or no symptoms, yet infection around the roots of the tooth can be seen with radiographic imaging. In these cases, after we confirm the problem with clinical testing, we’ll typically recommend a root canal treatment to help prevent symptoms from starting—or getting worse.
Overall, it’s important that if you’re noticing any signs of discomfort or root canal pain to schedule a consultation with your dental provider to ensure nothing worse is lingering.
Question: If a patient is diagnosed with a root canal system infection, what are the primary considerations to focus on when choosing between treatment options?
Answer: You should be your own advocate for ensuring you’re getting the best treatment possible. To help guide your decision making, ask yourself questions like:
- Do I trust the dental care provider and her or his recommendation?
- Did my provider share the projected long-term success for each treatment option?
- Do I understand the different costs involved?
Being able to comfortably discuss these topics with your provider helps to set realistic expectations that can inform your treatment decision. Ultimately, an open and honest conversation will help ensure you achieve the best outcome.
Question: What can occur if a patient decides to delay having treatment done?
Answer: If a tooth truly requires a root canal treatment, then it is best to have it treated as soon as possible. Potential problems associated with delaying treatment include:
- Increases in pain
- Loss of bone around the roots of the affected tooth
In some cases, waiting too long to address the issue may result in loss of the tooth, so it’s important to avoid delaying treatment. If a short delay is needed, you can see if antibiotics can be used as a temporary measure to help control symptoms; however, this should only be for a short period of time before you fully treat the tooth.
Question: Should patients prioritize saving their natural teeth?
Answer: Yes, you should always prioritize saving your natural teeth! By preserving the natural tooth, you can maintain optimal chewing function, which is linked to nutritional health. Additionally, natural teeth provide more sensory feedback to the brain when compared to dental implants, which helps to protect them during use.
Dental research also shows that losing teeth can result in psychological distress due to lowered self-confidence, especially if the lost teeth are highly visible. Conversely, keeping a healthy smile makes a positive first impression and can benefit your professional and personal relationships.
Talk to your dental provider to ensure your treatment plan is focused on saving your natural tooth, if possible. It will provide you with numerous long-term benefits.
To learn more about the importance of your natural teeth, check out our visual guide Why You Should Prioritize Saving Your Natural Teeth!
Question: What is an endodontist? Are there advantages to choosing an endodontist over a dentist for a root canal treatment?
Answer: Endodontists are dentists who complete a two- or three-year residency after dental school that’s focused on diagnosing and managing infected teeth that may require a root canal treatment or other endodontic procedures. An advantage of seeing an endodontist for treatment is her or his clinical expertise, as well as the utilization of specialized technology that supports an efficient and successful procedure.
Question: If patients are nervous about having a root canal treatment done, what should they be aware of that may help them relax?
Answer: One of the biggest fears I hear from patients is, “I am scared that this is going to hurt!”
One thing you should remember is that endodontists are experts at getting teeth anesthetized prior to treatment. I always explain to my patients that once the tooth is numb, the procedure itself should not be painful.
Some endodontic offices offer adjunct pharmacologic measures, including nitrous oxide or oral conscious sedation, which can help make an appointment more relaxing for extra nervous patients. I suggest calling ahead to ask about your endodontist’s options to ensure you understand your choices before going into the treatment.
Question: How does a conventional root canal treatment compare to the GentleWave® Procedure?
Answer: Conventional root canal treatment typically requires the removal of more infected tooth structure from the roots when compared to cases where the GentleWave® Procedure is utilized. This might sound desirable upon first glance, but unfortunately it can result in a weaker tooth with an increased risk for future root fracture.
The GentleWave Procedure allows for the strength of your tooth to be altered less during the root canal procedure, while simultaneously being disinfected exceptionally well. Conventional root canal treatments typically use less disinfecting solution compared to the volume of cleaning fluids used during the GentleWave Procedure.
“Use of the GentleWave® Procedure results in such effective disinfection that the vast majority of treatments can be completed in a single visit, with minimal postoperative soreness.”
In terms of postoperative discomfort, minor gum soreness or biting tenderness is relatively common for a few days after a root canal is finished. Clinicians who use the GentleWave Procedure, though, have noted that fewer patients report this post-treatment discomfort.
“I found that the GentleWave Procedure was comfortable and easy. The recovery from it was very smooth, and I had very little discomfort afterwards. I’d recommend it to any of my family members or anybody in need of a root canal.” –Steve, GentleWave Procedure Patient
Question: What can patients do after any oral procedure to help ensure long-term success of the treated tooth? Are there specific instructions that you provide your patients?
Answer: Following up with your restorative dentist for a filling or crown after a root canal is a common necessity. This is needed in order to create a long-term protective seal to help prevent your tooth from becoming reinfected and to strengthen it.
Maintaining a regular dental cleaning schedule to check for cavities or infections is also important to help catch small issues before they become bigger problems.
Question: Is there any additional information that would be beneficial for patients to know?
Answer: I recommend that patients do their own research prior to choosing a provider to trust with their root canal treatment. Ask your dentist where she or he would want to go for endodontic treatment, check out online reviews and ask friends who have had root canals completed.
You should also educate yourself about the GentleWave Procedure prior to making a decision on where to go, as it could be the right treatment option for you.
Looking to Experience the GentleWave® Procedure?