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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.
Tooth preservation is the ultimate aim of a root canal treatment. But how long should you expect a treated tooth to last? The answer will depend on a few different variables.
A root canal treatment is necessary when a tooth’s pulp — the inner tissue made of nerves, blood vessels and connective tissues — becomes infected with disease. As the pulp dies, the infection spreads into the adjacent bone; this can eventually lead to loss of the tooth.
To stop this process, we enter the tooth and remove all of the pulp, disinfect the pulp chamber and the root canals, and then fill the chamber and canals. Depending on the type of tooth and level of decay, we seal the tooth with a filling or install a crown to prevent re-infection. it’s then quite possible for a treated tooth to survive for years, decades, or even a lifetime.
There are a number of factors, though, that may affect its actual longevity. A primary one depends on how early in the disease you receive the root canal treatment. Tooth survival rates are much better if the infection hasn’t spread into the bone. The earlier you’re treated, the better the possible outcome.
Tooth survival also depends on how well and thorough the root canal is performed. It’s imperative to remove diseased tissue and disinfect the interior spaces, followed by filling and sealing. In a related matter, not all teeth are equal in form or function. Front teeth, used primarily for cutting and incurring less chewing force, typically have a single root and are much easier to treat than back teeth. Back teeth, by contrast, have multiple roots and so more root canals to access and treat. A front tooth may not require a crown, but a back tooth invariably will.
These factors, as well as aging (older teeth tend to be more brittle and more susceptible to fracture), all play a role in determining the treated tooth’s survival. But in spite of any negative factors, a root canal treatment is usually the best option for a diseased or damaged tooth. Although there are a number of good options for replacing a lost tooth, you're usually better in the long run if we can preserve your natural tooth for as long as possible.
If you would like more information on root canal treatments, 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 “Root Canal Treatment: How Long Will it Last?”
According to popular culture, a root canal treatment is one of life’s most painful experiences. But popular culture is wrong — this common treatment doesn’t cause pain, it relieves it. Knowing the facts will help alleviate any anxiety you may feel if you’re scheduled to undergo the procedure.
A root canal treatment addresses a serious problem involving the pulp of a tooth that has become infected. The pulp is a system of blood vessels, nerves and connective tissues inside the tooth that helps the tooth maintain its vitality. It also contains a series of minute passageways known as root canals that interconnect with the body’s nervous system.
The pulp may become infected for a number of reasons: tooth decay, gum disease, repetitive dental procedures, or traumatic tooth damage. Once the pulp becomes irreversibly damaged it must be completely removed from the tooth and the root canals filled and sealed in order to save the tooth.
We begin the procedure by numbing the affected tooth and surrounding tissues with local anesthesia and placing a dental dam (a thin sheet of rubber or vinyl) over the area to isolate the tooth and prevent the spread of infection to other oral tissues. We then drill a small hole in the top of the tooth to access the pulp chamber. Using special instruments, we then remove the infected or dead pulp tissue through the access hole and then wash and cleanse the root canals and pulp chamber with antiseptic and antibacterial solutions.
After additional preparation, we fill the root canals and pulp chamber with a filling especially designed for this kind of treatment, usually a rubber-like substance called gutta-percha that easily molds and compresses when heated. We then seal the access hole with a temporary filling (until a permanent crown can be fashioned) to prevent infection from reentering the pulp space. After the procedure, you may experience some minor discomfort easily managed with over-the-counter pain relievers.
You’ll find the root canal treatment alleviates the symptoms prompted by the pulp infection, particularly acute pain. What’s more, a successful root canal will have achieved something even more crucial to your health — it will give your tooth a second chance at survival.
If you would like more information on root canal 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 “A step-By-Step Guide to Root Canal Treatment.”
Singer LeAnn Rimes was forced to cancel a string of performances recently, as a more pressing engagement came up: a late-night meeting with her endodontist. It turned out that the country-pop star needed some emergency dental work performed while she was on tour. But her die-hard fans needn't have felt left out — Rimes faithfully tweeted each stage of her dental treatment.
The trouble began before she was scheduled to play a show in Ohio. “Waiting on the endodontist to meet me and do a nighttime root canal,” she informed her twitter followers. Instead of performing, Rimes was advised to spend the next few days resting after the emergency treatment. “Happy Friday! I'll be spending mine in bed,” she tweeted after the previous evening's procedure. The following Monday, Rimes returned to the dentist's chair for follow-up treatment.
It turned out that the singer had been battling dental pain for months. “I am so disappointed that I can't make it to my fans tonight.” Rimes explained in a statement. “I had wanted to give them the show they deserved and only wish this tooth pain held out a little longer.”
If there's a moral to this story, it's this: If you have tooth pain, don't wait to see a dentist. Call us right away!
A feeling of constant pain and pressure in your mouth is a clear indication that you may need a root canal. Another telltale symptom is sharp pain when you bite down on food, or lingering pain after eating something hot or cold. Not every symptom is as clear-cut, however — the only way to know for sure whether you need treatment is to come in for an evaluation.
Pain in your teeth or gums may be a symptom of a serious condition. Even if the pain goes away temporarily, an underlying infection generally does not. If a treatment such as root canal therapy is needed, the sooner it is obtained, the better you'll feel. And remember, root canal treatment doesn't cause tooth pain — it relieves it!
If you have any concerns about tooth pain, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine articles “I'd Rather Have a Root Canal” and “Signs and Symptoms of a Future Root Canal.”