What Is Root Canal?


Teeth are not supposed to hurt. When they do, the type of pain you experience will often point right to the specific problem. This is particularly true of teeth in need of root canal treatment for which an infection or inflammation in the pulp is always the underlying cause. 

Numerous things can cause the trouble. Teeth that have undergone numerous dental procedures are frequently at risk, as are those that are chipped, cracked, or deeply decayed. An injury can damage the pulp as well, and this can be the case even in teeth for which no obvious cracks or chips exist to tell the tale. 

A tooth in need of root canal will usually present the sufferer with at least one of the following symptoms: 

  • Sensitivity to hot or cold substances.
  • Tenderness
  • Discomfort when chewing.
  • Swelling of the jaw and possibly the lymph nodes.
  • A discharge of pus into the mouth.
  • Pain that is often severe.

In rare cases, a tooth in need of root canal treatment will exhibit no symptoms whatsoever. Nevertheless, the lack of discomfort does not mean that the trouble will resolve itself or that it is something that you can safely ignore. If left untreated, abscessed teeth can be dangerous. In fact, as recently as two centuries ago, they ranked fifth among the commonest causes of death. Needless to say, extractions were also prevalent during that time. Thanks to modern endodontic treatment, today's sufferers can expect a far rosier outcome.  

How Root Canal Treatment Can Save a Tooth

Somewhat more complicated than getting a dental filling, root canal treatment consists of several steps. The dentist will begin by carefully examining the tooth, probably consulting an X-ray to confirm the diagnosis. If the trouble is truly on the inside, he will administer a local or general an anesthetic before performing the following steps.

1. To start, your dentist will isolate the tooth by placing a protective rubber sheet around it. This will ensure that the area remains dry and free of further contamination.

2. He will then open the crown of the tooth to access the pulp, placing the entry point on the biting surface if the tooth is a molar or on the back for a canine or incisor. If he encounters any existing decay, he'll remove it at this point. 

3. Once he has accessed the affected tooth's interior, the dentist must determine how many canals it truly contains. The count may vary from one person to another. Incisors and canines will usually contain only one canal, but premolars sometimes have two and molars could incorporate three, four or even more. A surgical microscope may assist in examining the floor of the pulp chamber to discover any smaller canals that might otherwise remain unseen. 

4. It will now be time to clean and flush the pulp chamber. This involves removing both live and dead nerve tissue, bacteria, debris and toxins as well as the pulp itself. At this time, the dentist will also reshape the canals, enlarging and flaring them in preparation for receipt of the filling material. 

5. Once he has cleaned and properly shaped the interior spaces of the tooth, your dentist may choose to insert medication to assist in killing any remaining bacteria. He will either leave the tooth open to drain or place a temporary filling, and if the infection has spread into the bone or surrounding tissue, he may prescribe a course of antibiotics. 

6. At the next appointment, he will fill the tooth's interior with a rubber-like biomedical material known as gutta percha along with an adhesive cement to hold it all in place. Since the tooth no longer contains a nerve, this step should cause no discomfort.

Restoring the Tooth After Root Canal

Teeth that have undergone root canal treatment have not usually been in the best of shape to begin with. They may already contain large fillings or suffer from general weakness due to extensive decay. Overall, most will require some sort of restoration following the procedure, and this will consist of the placement of an attractive gold or porcelain crown. Sometimes a post will be inserted first for support if the underlying structure should require it.

Following the root canal treatment and restoration, your newly crowned tooth should not only present an attractive cosmetic appearance but also work just like a natural tooth. You may experience some sensitivity for a few days after the procedure, but discomfort will rarely continue beyond that length of time.

While most teeth respond well to root canal treatment, some few will not. This can be the case if the tooth's root has suffered a fracture, its canals are inaccessible or the surrounding bone has receded to the point at which it can no longer offer sufficient support. If the problem is caught in time, however, nearly every tooth can enjoy a new lease on life.

If you are experiencing dental pain, don't sit and hope that the problem will resolve itself. If it's dental in nature, the odds are overwhelming that it won't. Luckily, root canal treatment could save that troublesome tooth, so call Dr. White today for an evaluation.




Although the prevalence of periodontal disease has decreased somewhat since the early 1970s, it remains the leading cause of tooth loss among adults. Unless properly treated, it will destroy the gum tissue, consume the bone that holds the teeth in place where they belong and put sufferers on a one-way path to full or partial dentures.

Part of the problem with this disease concerns its silent nature. In the preliminary stages, there is no pain involved, and unless you notice a pink coloration on your toothbrush, it's hard to understand that anything is wrong. Unfortunately, this initial stage of gingivitis may lead to full-blown periodontitis as bacteria builds up in plaque, inflaming the gums and encouraging them to bleed. At this point, however, the teeth are still firmly embedded in the bone, and whatever has occurred up to this point remains reversible.

The real trouble starts when gingivitis sufferers choose to ignore the problem. Untreated gingivitis will inexorably lead to periodontitis, a stage in which both gum and bone detach from the teeth and leave pockets behind. These small spaces act as magnets that attract and trap debris.

As the situation worsens, bacteria will grow, causing an infection that easily spreads beneath the gumline. Eventually, the bone and connective tissue surrounding the teeth begin to break down. Lacking the support they need, the teeth will gradually loosen to the point of no return, and in the final stages they eventually fall out.

The Causes of Gum Disease

A buildup of plaque remains the main culprit behind gingivitis and periodontal disease. Regular dental cleanings are imperative for keeping this at bay, but plaque is not the only causative factor. Others are:

  • Hormonal changes, particularly in women. Puberty, menstruation, pregnancy and even menopause can leave the gums vulnerable to bacterial attack.
  • Illnesses, particularly those that affect the body's immune system. Cancer, diabetes and AIDS are just three of the maladies that lower the body's resistance to bacterial growth and encourage periodontal disease.
  • Medications. Many impede the flow of protective saliva. Others, particularly anticonvulsant and antianginal drugs, encourage abnormal gum tissue growth.
  • Poor oral hygiene. For those who wish to avoid the perils of gum disease, regular brushing and flossing are essential.
  • Genetic predisposition. A tendency to develop periodontal disease is known to run in families.

How to Spot the Warning Signs of Periodontal Disease

Periodontal disease often causes no pain, even in its later stages. Nevertheless, there are ways of spotting its existence. The most obvious signs include:

  • Bad breath.
  • A persistent foul taste in the mouth.
  • Swollen, tender, red, bleeding or receding gums.
  • Loose teeth.
  • Deep pockets that form between teeth and gums.
  • Changes in the bite of natural teeth or in the fit of dentures.

Somewhat harder to spot are the cases showing no symptoms whatsoever, particularly when they affect only a few of the teeth in your mouth. Your dentist, however, will know the signs, and he or she will be able to spot the presence of gingivitis even in patients who have no idea of its existence.

Professional Treatment of Periodontal Disease

If caught early enough, it is possible to stop the progression of periodontal disease and even to reverse it entirely in many cases. The goal is to reduce swelling, decrease pocket depth and encourage gum and bone regeneration.

Treatment of periodontal disease consists of various methods of cleaning the pockets that have formed around the teeth. For less advanced cases, such nonsurgical treatments as scaling, root planing and the occasional use of oral or topical antibiotics may be enough.

In more serious cases, a dental surgeon can perform:

  • Flap surgery to reduce pocket size.
  • Soft tissue grafts to cover the roots and alleviate gum recession.
  • Bone grafting.
  • Guided tissue regeneration to encourage bone regrowth.
  • Tissue stimulation via protein-rich gels.

Preventing Gingivitis and Periodontal Disease

In most cases, the proper control of plaque will stop the progression of gum disease and may even reverse its course. This will, however, entail at least two professional cleanings a year along with daily brushing and flossing to remove plaque on tooth surfaces, between the teeth and under the gumline. The use of antibacterial mouthwash can also assist in the reduction of bacteria that cause gingivitis and periodontal disease.

There are other things a person can do. The individual who wishes to prevent or reverse the progression of gum disease will need to:

  • Quit smoking. Tobacco use will leave the smoker up to seven times more vulnerable to acquiring gum disease and impede any chances of reversing the condition.
  • Calm down. Stress is a major cause of numerous destructive body conditions, gum disease included.
  • Eat well. Good nutrition will help your body fight infection, and foods that are antioxidant-rich will assist it in repairing damaged tissue.
  • Wear a night guard. Not everyone needs the device, but those who unintentionally grind their teeth are subjecting their dentition to as much as 500 pounds of pressure. This can destroy the bone and connective tissue that hold the teeth in place.

Fortunately, gingivitis and periodontal disease can be halted and even reversed, but only if you catch it in time. If you suspect that you have the condition, don't let it get out of hand. Call the offices of Dr. James White for a consultation today and get a start in dealing with the situation before it becomes any worse.

How long do you expect your teeth to last? Too many people accept what seems to be inevitable: that by the time they've hit middle age, they'll be making frequent visits to the denture adhesive aisle. Fortunately, a future doomed to the wearing of full or partial dentures may not be inevitable. Despite what many people believe, we now are living in a brave new world where nothing could be further from the truth.

However, much depends on the quality of your dental care. As is true of everything in this life, when it comes to dentistry, you get what you pay for. You can have your teeth repaired in an inexpensive hurry, but if you hope to hold on to them for any length of time, quick and cheap is not the way to go. If you choose this strategy, you are certain to miss out on the newest and best scientific advances for the care of your teeth. These include:

  • Improved filling and bonding materials.
  • Recalcification initiatives.
  • Laser dentistry.
  • Slimmer veneers.
  • Breakthrough treatments for periodontal disease.
  • Dental implants.

These modern dental treatments are available to you today, but if you wait too long, it could be too late. Once tooth decay has progressed beyond a certain point, fillings will no longer do the trick and crowns or root canal treatment will be the next step.

The Proper Care of Your Teeth

Like any other worthwhile investment, your teeth require regular and careful maintenance. You must brush them as often as possible, certainly after every meal and for no less than two minutes each time. In addition, since it takes about 24 hours for plaque to build up in your mouth, you should be flossing at least once a day and preferably more often. In this way, you not only cut down on the potential for developing cavities but also greatly lower your risk for gum disease, a condition that's responsible for a greater amount of tooth loss than many people realize.

Of course, regular visits to a dental hygienist are an absolute must. These professionals will do more than simply remove the plaque that your best efforts have left behind. They will also detect decay and spot the beginning stages of gum disease before you have any idea that this silent killer of dental health has made its initial inroads.

If You Already Have Crowns

If one or more of your teeth has broken badly, decayed beyond repair or undergone root canal treatment, it has almost certainly received a gleaming crown as a last step. You can treat the crown exactly as if it were one of your original teeth up to and including brushing, flossing and most importantly, subjecting it to regular dental examinations.

In fact, once you have had crowns placed on your teeth, regular dental care becomes even more important. That's because the crown has not replaced your entire tooth. Anything that remains in place underneath is still subject to cavities, especially if you fail to floss on a regular basis. This decay routinely begins at the gumline where plaque tends to accumulate between the crown and the tooth underneath. Once these areas of decay get started, they can quickly spread to the point at which the tooth itself is eventually lost. Only timely intervention can stop the carnage before it reaches this stage.

Sometimes, the treatment of this type of problem will entail the removal of the crown itself followed by the placement of a new one once the repair is complete. However, it's important to remember that every time you swap out a crown, you cannot help but lose a bit more of the tooth underneath. That's why it's so important to stay on top of things before your teeth ever do decay to the point of no return.

How Dr. James White Can Help

At the dental offices of Dr. James White, we take pride in treating our patients with the newest and most up-to-date methods and materials to maintain, repair and enhance the appearance of your teeth. The dental team of Dr. James White has dedicated itself to providing the personal care that you want and deserve, and when you visit our modern dental practice, you know you will be seen by professionals who believe in using the most advanced and proven technologies. You see, we want not only to keep your dental health at its optimal best but also to help you achieve and maintain a beautiful, gleaming smile that lasts you through the years and decades to come.