Tooth decay is frighteningly common. Over 90% of people will suffer from a cavity at some point in their lives. There is good news, though. When decay is detected early, a small tooth-colored composite filling can provide a natural-looking and durable restoration.

However, when decay advances to the pulp of the inner-tooth, a different solution is required: a root canal. In today’s post, we’ll talk about what you can expect from a root canal and answer a few of the most common questions our patients have about root canals.

Early cavity detection with DIAGNOdent®

When you visit Timberhill Dental for a checkup, we’ll use a high-tech instrument called the DIAGNOdent®. Using harmless pulses of light the DIAGNOdent® lets Dr. Black identify the earliest stages of decay that might otherwise be missed. When detected early enough, we may be able to help you avoid the need for a root canal down the road.

Ask about DIAGNOdent® at your next appointment.

Do you need a root canal?

Cavities are the most common cause of tooth damage and are frequently the culprits leading to a root canal. But you might be surprised to know that accidents and injuries can play a role, too.

For example, breaking a tooth on a piece of hard food may cause damage that can’t be repaired without a root canal. Even a small chip or crack can allow bacteria to enter the tooth’s pulp chamber, leading to painful inflammation.

Remember, only a dentist can tell you if you need a root canal. But answering a few simple questions at home might help you decide if you need to see a dentist sooner rather than later.

  • Are your teeth sensitive to hot and cold foods?
  • Do you see or feel chips or fractures in any teeth?
  • Are you experiencing chronic pain in your mouth — particularly pain on one side of your mouth?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, give us a call (541) 754-0144 and schedule a checkup at Timberhill Dental.

Don’t ignore a painful tooth

Ignoring a painful tooth is never a good idea. It’s your body’s way of telling you something is wrong. The pain from an infected tooth will not get better on its own. It will only get worse.

Beyond pain alone, avoiding a root canal can cause other health problems, too. The bacteria may advance beyond the tooth into the jaw bone, leading to an even more painful and dangerous abscess that may require immediate medical attention.

Neighboring teeth and gums may also be affected and damaged as well.

The purpose of a root canal

When performing a root canal, we want to help you save your otherwise healthy tooth. Remember, you only get one set of adult teeth so let’s do what we can to protect them.

During the root canal, we’ll remove the the infected pulp and dying nerve which will eliminate the infection and pain you’re experiencing. This also helps stop decay and prevents further infections, too.

Completing the root canal

After removing the infected pulp, a root filling is used to replace the nerve. Most root canals require removal of a significant portion of the tooth’s structure. To restore the natural shape and function of the tooth, a crown is generally recommended to complete the restoration.

Alternatives to root canals

We love it when our patients play an active role in their treatment and ask questions about different treatment options. Many people wonder if there’s any alternative to a root canal.

First remember something must be done to eliminate the pain you’re feeling and the infection that’s attacking your body. As we mentioned earlier, just doing nothing is never a good alternative.

That said, there are some cases where a root canal may not be your best option. For teeth that are severely damaged, extracting the tooth and placing a dental implant may be provide better long-term results. An implant may provide a more stable and durable attachment point for a crown. Implants can also help strengthen the bone in your jaw, a great added benefit.

Answers to your questions about root canals

How long will treatment last?

Outcomes vary from years to decades and depend on multiple factors. Ask Dr. Black about your particular situation.

Does this mean I won’t lose my tooth?

The purpose of the root canal is to help you keep your natural tooth for as long as possible. Premature tooth loss is not predictable and depends on multiple factors. Preventative care that starts early and remains consistent through life is the best strategy for keeping your natural teeth.

Does Dr. Black do root canals?

All root canal treatment is referred to a neighboring specialty practice. Dr. Black and the endodontist consult routinely to ensure the best possible care and outcome.

Will my insurance cover both the root canal and crown?

At Timberhill Dental, we know how important dental insurance is to our patients. We’ve worked with most major dental insurance providers and can help you understand what your benefits will cover and your estimated out-of-pocket expense.

We will help you to best utilize your dental benefit allowance and maximize your dental health.

If you don’t have dental insurance, you may be interested in our dental health savings plan or in other financing options like CareCredit.

Is it better to just get an implant?

Every person is different and there may be advantages to an implant. But whether an implant is right for you depends on the health of your teeth, gums, and jaw.

Talk to Dr. Black about your dental health

Timberhill Dental team

If you’re worried that you might need a root canal, our Corvallis general dentist can help. Schedule an appointment with Dr. Black to develop a treatment plan that meets your health needs and smile goals.