By Dra. Valeria Mora Gutiérrez
Endodontics is one of the most important specialties in dentistry. Its main objective is to maintain natural, healthy teeth painlessly. When is a root canal necessary? It’s needed when the inside of a tooth (the pulp or nerve) becomes inflamed or infected as a result of deep decay, repeated dental procedures, poorly fitting crowns causing secondary decay, and cracks or chips. Trauma to your tooth may also cause pulp damage even if the tooth has no visible chips or cracks. When pulp inflammation or infection is left untreated, it can cause pain and lead to an abscess.
In the last 10 or 15 years, a number of different sources have talked about the risks and myths around root canal therapy, some alleging that endodontic treatment has a negative impact on overall general health. Such misinformation can cause people to question the benefits of this positive dental treatment that is very well-supported by scientific evidence and clinical research, which substantiates high success percentages. Unfortunately, sources that rank high on a Google search do not always rank high on truth. Many patients come to us trying to save their teeth, but they are afraid because of this misinformation.
The reality is that the majority of patients undergoing a root canal treatment see improvement in their oral health and, consequently, improvement in their quality of life, while also preserving their own tooth and eliminating the need of an extraction, bridge, or implant surgery.
When you go to see an endodontist, he or she will review your dental and medical history and will perform a thorough clinical (percussion testing and response to cold and hot stimulus) and a radiographic exam. Further imaging diagnosis may be needed with a Cone Beam Computed Tomography (CBCT), which enables a better understanding of the anatomy of the canals and identifies mistreated canals and pathologies in the apical areas. After making a diagnosis, your endodontist will discuss the benefits, options, and risks involved so you can understand how treatment can relieve pain and save your tooth and will tell you the number of appointments needed to complete the root canal treatment.
The state-of-the-art equipment used in endodontics today, such as ultrasonic instruments that operate via high frequency vibration, fiber optic illuminators, and advanced microscope technology, can make it possible to finish the whole treatment in just one appointment.