Treatment of cavities and root canals are some of the most common modern dental procedures, but many patients don’t quite understand how they’re related and how they differ.
In simple terms, a root canal procedure is required when a cavity has been left untreated too long. Cavity fillings are used to fill small holes in teeth in cases where the nerve has not yet been damaged or affected by the cavity. This treatment only takes one visit to your dentist and is rarely painful thanks to freezing.
Root canal procedures, on the other hand, are required when the cavity has been left long enough to allow the infection of the soft tissues and nerves of the tooth. This pulp can then begin to break down, releasing bacteria and leading to serious damage to the jaw as well as other health complications.
Once infected, a root canal is the only way to save the tooth and prevent other teeth from moving out of alignment.
A root canal or endodontic treatment is a process in which your dentist will remove the infection soft tissues from inside the tooth through a small opening.
Once removed, the canal is thoroughly cleaned, filled in and sealed to prevent future infection.
After sealing the tooth, it will also need to be restored in order to provide full functionality. This restoration can involve crowns depending on the strength of the tooth following treatment, as well as its placement in the mouth.
Molars and back teeth will often require crowns as chewing can exert lots of force on these teeth.
Typically requiring only one or two treatments, a root canal procedure is performed under local anesthetic and may leave the affected tooth sensitive for some time after treatment. Cases of extreme pain or swelling should be reported to your attending dentist immediately.
In cases where root canal procedures are not successful, usually due to infections being left untreated for too long, retreatment can sometimes be required.
In this procedure, your dentist will remove the filling material, clean the area again, and then refill and seal the tooth once more.
If this treatment is still unsuccessful, surgery to check the end of the root and remove parts that cannot be removed during treatment may be required.
Regardless of whether your cavity is caught in its early stages or progresses to the point of needing a root canal, treatment does not prevent future problems: You may still get gum disease if you do not follow proper oral hygiene methods. With proper care and frequent visits to your dentist, you can help avoid these problems and ensure that your teeth stay healthy and strong.