Endodontist in Philadelphia, PA
At the office of Dr. Barry Rhome, we’re proud to help patients of all ages achieve a beautiful, healthy smile and maintain it for a lifetime. As a leading practice serving the Philadelphia area, we strive to create personalized treatment plans for all of our patients, working with each patient individually to find a treatment that fits into their lifestyle. We highly encourage preventive care, but when dental decay occurs and progresses to the point of threatening a tooth, a root is one of the most effective ways of restoring dental health.
What Is A Root Canal?
A root canal is one of the most common endodontic procedures performed, with over 14 million procedures being performed every year. This simple treatment can save your natural teeth and prevent the need for dental implants or bridges.
Generally, root canals are performed to save a tooth when dental decay penetrates completely through the outer enamel and dentin, infecting the soft, fleshy pulp of the tooth root. Once decay reaches this stage, you run the risk of not only destroying the tooth entirely but also infecting tissue in the jaw and putting the surrounding teeth and jawbone at risk.
Essentially, a root canal involves removing all decayed tooth structure and dental pulp, then filling the empty space left by the pulp—the root canal—with a strong, biocompatible material. Root canals stop tooth decay and completely repair the tooth, thereby preventing the pain of a dental infection and restoring your tooth to normal.
What’s Inside A Tooth?
While you may think of teeth as hard, white blocks, they’re actually complicated physiological structures with several types of tissue. The outer layer is the enamel—a hard, shiny covering that protects the inside of the tooth and chews food. Behind the enamel lies the dentin, which is tissue composed of tiny tubules that transmit sensations from the inside to the outside of the teeth.
At the center of the tooth lies a branching chamber called the root canal, which is filled with soft, fleshy dental pulp. The pulp contains nerve cells and blood vessels that carry sensory information and oxygen from the tooth to the rest of the body. Normally, the pulp is protected by a layer of both dentin and enamel—but if dental decay eats through the enamel and dentin, reaching the dental pulp, it puts the entire tooth at risk.
The most common reason for decay to reach the dental pulp is an untreated cavity, which grows until it finally eats through the entire tooth. This is why it is important to visit the dentist every six months to keep any cavities in check. However, dental trauma may also cause a crack in the tooth that lets bacteria reach the pulp. In some cases, repeated dental procedures on one tooth may compromise the health of the dental pulp, and routine procedures like orthodontics can even cause these issues—although that’s exceedingly rare.
Signs & Symptoms
Symptoms of the infection can be identified as visible injury or swelling of the tooth, sensitivity to temperature or pain in the tooth and gums. If you experience any of these symptoms, your dentist will most likely recommend non-surgical treatment to eliminate the diseased pulp. This injured pulp is removed and the root canal system is thoroughly cleaned and sealed. Root canal therapy usually involves local anesthesia and may be completed in one or more visits depending on the treatment required.
Endodontic treatment, usually in the form of a root canal, is usually the best option to save a tooth with infected dental pulp. To most people, this sounds like a nightmare—after all, the line “I’d rather have a root canal” is a common joke. But while root canals may seem scary, they are actually a routine procedure performed under local anesthesia, so patients rarely experience much discomfort. Plus, root canals stop decay, preventing painful toothaches and protecting the health of the mouth.
Every patient is different, but most root canal procedures work like this:
- First, Dr. Rhome will administer local anesthesia to eliminate discomfort. In addition, we will provide nitrous oxide analgesia, if indicated.
- Once the anesthetic takes effect, Dr. Rhome will make a tiny opening in the tooth surface, providing access to the dental pulp and root canals.
- Using specialized endodontic instruments, your endodontist will carefully remove all dead, dying, or infected tissue from the tooth, then clean and disinfect the area.
- Using a strong, biocompatible material, Dr. Rhome will fill the root canal completely, then seal the opening in the tooth to prevent future infections.
- Once the opening is fully sealed, your tooth will be healthy, strong, and back to normal.
- You will be able to drive home after your treatment, and you probably will be comfortable returning to your normal routine.
Success for this type of treatment occurs in about 90% of cases. If your tooth is not amenable to endodontic treatment or the chance of success is unfavorable, you will be informed at the time of consultation or when a complication becomes evident during or after treatment. In some cases, patients may need further treatment to address any causes of infection and prevent problems in the future, and many patients will need a restorative treatment like a dental crown to bring the tooth back to its normal appearance. With proper care, however, your newly-healed tooth will last you many years!
Contact Your Philadelphia Endodontist
Root canals are a highly effective treatment for saving a tooth that might otherwise be lost. If you have more questions about endodontic treatment, check out our endodontic FAQ page or give us a call at 215-735-7113. We look forward to helping you!