At Washington Dental, we pride ourselves on providing the people of the City of Lomita and its environs with comprehensive and high-quality dental care. Our dentists are skilled and have extensive real-world expertise across a wide range of dentistry practices, including root canals.

Normally, the prospect of undergoing a root canal procedure makes you nervous, if not downright terrified. Root canals have become associated with severe pain over time, although they have come a long way. We are confident in making sure the procedure is as painless and relaxing as possible.

If you are experiencing any pain or discomfort that may require a root canal procedure, contact us today for a free dental exam and digital x-rays for all our new patients, and let us be the reason you smile again.

What is a Root Canal?

A root canal is a dental treatment that removes the damaged pulp tissue from the inside of a tooth. The dentist uses flexible nickel-titanium files to fill up the roots, and the thin channels beneath the pulp chamber in the interior part of the tooth are emptied and cleaned. To understand how your dentist will carry out the root canal procedure, you have to understand the makeup of your tooth.

A tooth is composed of three primary layers: a hard outer layer called enamel, a softer and more sensitive middle layer called dentin, and a soft interior tissue layer called the dental pulp. The most important component of a tooth is the dental pulp, which comprises the nerve tissue, lymph tissue, and blood vessels.

When the dental pulp has been severely damaged, whether by profound dental caries, a fracture in the tooth that reaches the pulp, or a severe blow to the face, the tooth starts to die, and a root canal procedure is typically carried out to prevent or eliminate infection or tooth loss.

A root canal procedure entails disinfecting the tooth and getting rid of any debris from the pulp chamber. Debris in the pulp chamber consists of nerve, lymph and blood tissues, bacteria, and infection. The canals of the damaged tooth are then cleaned, sculpted, and filled with materials that stop and prevent discomfort and infection from recurring. It is necessary to seal the tip of the tooth's root to prevent the likelihood of any leakage that will increase the chances of failure.

In recent years, the root canal procedure has become a common practice with millions of teeth being treated and saved annually. With new technology, your root canal dentist can now complete the treatment painlessly and after the completion of the procedure, you will be pain-free for the rest of your life.

What Causes Root Canal?

A root canal can be caused by the following:

  • Tooth Decay

Individuals seek root canals for a variety of reasons; however, decay is the most common cause for a root canal. Poor hygiene of the teeth is the main cause of tooth decay. Dentists recommend that you brush and floss your teeth at least twice daily. Brushing prevents the formation of plaque caused by bacterial buildup. The bacterium in the plaque then goes on to cause cavities.

If a cavity grows large enough, it penetrates your pulp chamber and into your nerves. Bacteria may then enter this chamber causing discomfort and in some cases, an infection will develop. As a result, you will need a root canal to save your tooth and help relieve the discomfort.

  • Trauma

If your tooth fractures or breaks, you may need a root canal. Injury to your tooth can expose your pulp chamber, causing nerve injury and pain. To save your tooth, the dentist will remove the damaged nerve.

  • Gum Disease

Gum disease, also known as periodontal disease, is an infection that targets the soft tissue that binds, supports, and provides the flow of blood to the teeth. Periodontal disease, which can spread throughout your mouth, can cause symptoms such as bleeding or discoloration in the gums. The teeth will gradually fall out if this issue is not addressed.

Swollen and red gums also cause gingivitis. Gingivitis can progress to periodontists, which causes the gums to pull away from the tooth and become infected if left untreated. If it comes to that, the dentist will perform a tooth extraction procedure.

Signs and Symptoms of an Infected Root Canal

Here are some of the most typical signs and symptoms of a root canal infection:

  • Pain or Discomfort

When dealing with a root canal infection, the most common symptom that prompts patients to seek dental treatment is pain. A root canal infection causes excruciating pain. When you apply pressure to the affected tooth, the pain becomes even more extreme.

The tooth may also become very sensitive when you take hot or cold foods or beverages. Inflammation of the gums can also bring discomfort. The gums become red and sensitive as a result of swelling around the damaged tooth.

  • Darkening of the Tooth

The tooth may seem to change color to brown or yellow when the interior layer of the tooth has been infected. The pulp tissues turn to dark brown color as the infection continues and thereby changing the appearance of the tooth. Tooth pulps can die due to a lack of blood supply, indicating the need for a root canal. Although tooth discoloration can be caused by a variety of reasons, it is always a good idea to visit your dentist if you notice a change in the color of your teeth.

  • Dental Abscess

When bacteria and dying pulp material form deep pockets full of pus around the tooth root, it is called a dental abscess. The abscess may also begin to leak a foul-smelling fluid. This causes considerable amounts of discomfort and foul breath and is usually apparent as an enormous or persistent red lump or pimple. During the treatment, your dentist will drain the painful abscess and clean out the bacteria to relieve the discomfort.

  • Bad Breath

Patients who have a root canal infection experience foul breath despite brushing, flossing, and using dental cleansers. The bacteria that cause a root canal infection have a distinct odor. This results in foul breath and a bitter aftertaste in the mouth. The formation of an abscess can further exacerbate the situation.

  • Swollen Gums

Inflamed gums near the aching tooth may indicate a problem that needs a root canal. It is possible that the swelling will come and go and the gum could be sometimes tender or completely painless when you touch it. Swelling is created by acidic waste products from dead pulp tissues, which is also referred to as edema, outside of the root tip area.

  • Loose Tooth

Your tooth may feel looser if it is infected. Other issues besides pulpal necrosis, also referred to as nerve death, can cause this, but it can be a symptom that a root canal is required. Acid waste products from nerve death weaken the bone around a dying tooth's root, enabling mobility. However, if more than one tooth feels loose, there is a good chance it is due to something other than a root canal.

Do not dismiss the signs of a root canal infection. The purpose of a root canal procedure is to save your tooth instead of extracting it. Did you know that missing teeth can lead to biting issues, tooth shifting, and loss of the jawbone? Root canal treatments are effective and with good treatment, you will preserve the functionality of your tooth for a lifetime while preventing additional dental issues.

Signs That You Need a Root Canal

A visit to the dentist is the only way to know for sure if you require a root canal. However, there are a few red flags to keep an eye out for. Like any other infection, a root canal infection can spread to surrounding tissue in the mouth, including additional teeth, gums, and cheek and facial tissue. The infection will not go until you treat it, and the longer you wait, the worse it will become. The extent to which the illness spreads is determined by how quickly you seek treatment after experiencing symptoms. If you seek medical treatment within hours or days of the onset of the infection, you can prevent the spread of the illness to the tooth and neighboring teeth and tissues.

Some symptoms may signal that you have an affected tooth or an infected nerve, requiring a root canal procedure. These are some of the warning signs:

  • Pain ranges from mild to severe
  • Discoloration of the teeth and surrounding gums
  • The gum tissue around the tooth is swollen and irritated
  • On a radiograph, signs of infection can be seen
  • Sensitivity to significant or severe temperatures
  • Inability to chew

Root Canal Procedure

Before the root canal operation, your dentist may prescribe antibiotics for you, which you will take for a few days, at your initial dental visit. Your dentist will isolate the tooth with a rubber dam at the start of the procedure and use local anesthesia to numb the area to prevent pain during the treatment. The anesthesia will also help you relax during the procedure.

Your dentist will then use a drill to access the pulp chamber. The dentist will then go ahead to thoroughly cleanse the canals and the tip of the root carefully using flexible nickel-titanium files. This eliminates all indications of infection or debris. Water or sodium hypochlorite is used to flush away the debris. This procedure is carried out with extreme caution to avoid causing injury to the surrounding ligaments and bone.

During the cleaning phase, digital X-rays and a microscope with a magnification of up to 32 times are used to find the root's tip and determine if there are any signs of infection. Once the tooth is cleaned, the dentist may wait up to a week before sealing the tooth or seal it on the same day. If the root canal is done after a week, a temporary protective material is used on the exterior to keep food debris and saliva out.

Some dentists use a special type of heat gun to fill the canal with gutta-percha, a natural and antibacterial substance. The gutta-percha fills and seals the hollow area in about 15 minutes. Other dentists may use a resin material instead for the bonding process. The last step of the procedure involves the restoration of the tooth where a crown is added to protect the tooth from breakage and also to restore its functionality.

Root Canal Recovery

Most patients are concerned about how long the root canal will take to recover and properly heal. Following the procedure, your mouth might feel numb for a few hours, then the anesthesia will wear off and you will start to feel some soreness because of the cleaning or the newly placed crown.

Most people can return to their daily routines immediately while the soreness could last for a few days in others. Your dentist will recommend that you pay close attention to your mouth. The tooth may feel sensitive for the first couple of days after a root canal because of tissue swelling, predominantly if there was severe infection before the operation.

It is also advisable to eat after the numbness has worn off to prevent the risk of biting your tongue and injuring yourself further. You can use an ice pack to reduce swelling after your therapy and as you sleep, remember to keep your head elevated with soft pillows to avoid irritation.

For the first several days, carefully plan your meals. Consider things that make it easy to get enough nourishment without having to chew for prolonged periods. When recovering from a root canal, soups, smoothies, and soft foods like mashed potatoes are all good options. You will be able to eat whatever you want without fear of injuring your fixed tooth.

For the first several days after your procedure, take it easy when exercising. Inquire with your dentist about how long you should refrain from exercising. Exercising too early can make you feel sore again. Remember to relax a bit during your healing phase so you do not end up with an issue that was created or worsened by exercise. When you are ready to return on your feet, seek activities designed specifically for those who have recently undergone surgery. These enable you to reap the same benefits without putting your body under unnecessary stress.

Most people get a crown after their root canal is finished. The crown is usually temporary until a permanent one is made. As this crown is not permanent and was sculpted specifically for your mouth, pay attention to how it feels. When you eat, see if you have any pain or irritation.

Even though you will get your permanent crown soon, let your dentist know if the temporary crown causes you any discomfort or swelling. As a result, you will not have any issues with the materials used to make your crown, and you will be able to prevent infection.

While you are recovering, you must get some rest. Attempt to get as much sleep as possible so that you can heal quickly and return to feeling like yourself. If you are allowing yourself to heal properly, inflammation, pain, and other symptoms will start to fade after a day or two. Likewise, think about what is going on if you are still in a lot of pain.

It can be likely that you have an infection or that there are additional issues with your root canal. It is crucial to contact your dentist if you detect any of the following:

- Swelling that persists for more than a day

- Hives and rashes

- Painkillers are ineffective

Root Canal Complications

Due to some complications that may come about with the original root canal procedure, subsequent treatments may be required. We like to ensure that our patients are aware of any potential complications that may emerge so that they can identify them as soon as possible to avoid any unnecessary medical issues.

Here are some rare but potential complications that can occur after root canal therapy:

  • Numbness

The substance used to fill the root canal could move beyond its intended location. If this happens, surrounding nerves may get inflamed, resulting in numbness. If you still have numbness after a day or two following a root canal, you should see your dentist immediately.

  • Breakage of the Tooth

Following the removal of the decay that caused a root canal, a crown is placed on the tooth to help preserve it. If a crown is not fitted on time, the tooth may crack, break, become brittle, or become reinfected, necessitating additional dental treatments or the tooth's removal.

  • Infection

Although getting an infection after a root canal procedure is uncommon, it can occur. Bacteria infiltrating the tooth and soft tissue during treatment, a minor rupture in the soft tissue of the tooth, and/or insufficient initial root canal treatments can all lead to infections. Your dentist should prescribe antibiotics if he or she suspects or observes an infection.

Pain, fever, swelling, abscess, and/or pus are all signs of infection. If you develop any of these symptoms following your root canal, you should see your dentist right away.

  • Root Fracture

The root of the tooth can crack due to decay or microscopic fractures that are not visible to the naked eye. If a root fracture occurs, you and your dentist will need to consider treatment options that may include the removal of the tooth.

Root Canal Alternatives

Root canal therapy may be used to save your teeth. Saving your natural teeth is usually the best alternative. Your natural teeth help you consume a wide range of essential meals in maintaining good nutrition. Tooth extraction and replacement with a bridge, implant, or removable partial denture is the only alternative to root canal therapy. However, these alternatives are more costly than a root canal and take longer to treat.

Root Canal Prevention

It is important to keep up with good dental hygiene after a root canal to prevent the reoccurrence of a root canal. You should brush and floss at least twice a day to avoid plaque buildup. You should also use a mild antiseptic mouthwash regularly to keep your teeth healthy.

After the completion of your root canal therapy and any other procedures, you will have a follow-up appointment with your dentist to ensure that everything has healed properly. In case you experience any soreness, you can use over-the-counter pain medications to ease the discomfort.

It is also advisable to visit your dentist for thorough dental cleanings at least twice a year. Your dentist will be able to catch early infections before they progress and in case you notice any signs of infection it is wise to book an appointment with your dentist as early as possible.

Reduce your intake of sugary foods and processed carbohydrates as well. Such foods tend to stick to your teeth. If you eat sugary foods, immediately rinse your mouth or brush your teeth.

Find a Root Canal Dentist Near Me

In almost any case, if good oral hygiene is practiced, a root canal procedure will usually save the tooth. If you notice any of the symptoms listed above, you may have an emergency dental problem that requires immediate attention to avoid further issues or tooth loss. The procedure takes only a short time and is no more painful than receiving a filling, thanks to current technologies.

At Washington Dental we are always available to answer any questions or address any concerns you may have about your dental health. If you live in the city of Lomita, call us today to get started on your root canal procedure. For any further information, or to book an appointment, you can give us a call at 310-326-5183. There is no more reason to delay if you need a root canal. We promise you that you will have the best experience with us as you let us take care of your dental needs.