In the last few years, you may have read a publication or seen a social media post that comments on the safety and efficacy of a very common dental procedure, root canal therapy. Some of these publications have questioned whether root canals are safe and/or whether they should even be recommended to patients by their Calgary dentist. For those patients who have had a root canal procedure completed on one or more teeth or for those patients who have been advised that a root canal procedure is recommended, these reports may be concerning. Our Calgary dentist gets to the root of the issues regarding root canal therapy below.
WHAT IS ROOT CANAL THERAPY?
Endodontic therapy, commony referred to as a root canal, is a procedure performed by your Calgary dentist in circumstances where there is extensive damage or decay to a tooth causing the pulp in your tooth to become inflamed or infected. This may occur as a result of a cavity, trauma to the tooth, a tooth fracture or even gum disease. In circumstances where a root canal is recommended by your Calgary dentist, in most cases, the only other option available would be to extract the tooth. Where a tooth is saveable, in the majority of cases, Dr. Dirk Thompson, our Calgary dentist, will advise a patient to save their tooth and proceed with endodontic therapy. Note that in some cases, root canal therapy may not be a viable option and the tooth may have to be extracted.
HOW IS ROOT CANAL TREATMENT COMPLETED?
The first step when contemplating root canal therapy is to ensure that your tooth is a candidate for root canal therapy. Once our Calgary dentist has made this determination, in very simple terms, the inflamed or infected pulp will be cleaned out and the root canal system of the tooth disinfected and sealed. This procedure is completed by our Calgary dentist with a local anaesthetic (freezing). After completion of the root canal treatment, your Calgary dentist will restore the root canalled tooth with either a filling or a crown. A crown is often the best and most durable long term solution for your tooth in terms of both function and aesthetics, particularly where there is extensive damage or decay to your tooth. At your dental appointment with our Calgary dentist, both the benefits, risks and costs of both types of restorations will be discussed with you so you can make a fully informed decision regarding your treatment options. Typically, root canal treatment can be completed in one visit by our Calgary dentist, although sometimes more than one visit may be required, for instance where the pulp is very inflamed or infected. A subsequent dental visit may be required to place the restoration depending upon the type of restoration to be completed.
WHAT ARE SOME ALTERNATIVES TO ROOT CANAL THERAPY?
In most cases, the only other viable option to root canal therapy is extraction of the tooth. Because extractions are permanent when extracting an adult tooth, if your tooth can be saved, in most cases our Calgary dentist will recommend that this course of action be taken and a root canal be performed. Once the tooth is extracted, the only available options are as follows:
- do nothing and not replace the tooth, which can lead to other issues with the adjacent teeth, including front and back movement of the adjacent teeth and supraeruption of the teeth opposite to it;
- to have a dental implant placed by your Calgary dentist, followed by the placement of an implant crown; and
- to have a bridge placed, which involves reduction of the natural tooth structures of the adjacent teeth. It should be noted that a bridge cannot be placed on the last back molar.
Prior to making the decision to extract your tooth, it is very important that you have a discussion with your Calgary dentist to ensure you are fully aware of and understand the options available to you after the extraction, together with their respective costs and longevity expectation.
ARE ROOT CANALS SAFE?
If you follow social media and other media sources, you may have heard certain points of view that have questioned whether root canals are safe and even whether they should be recommended by a dentist. Although it cannot be disputed that no medical or dental procedure’s success can be absolutely guaranteed, root canals are considered to be a safe dental procedure. With respect to their success rate, most root canals that are completed in appropriate cases are successful, although there are instances where a second root canal must be performed, which is referred to as root canal retreatment. Where a dentist must retreat the root canal, the filling material is removed from the root, the canal is recleaned and it is then refilled. Sometimes, if endodontic mircosurgery is required, your general Calgary dentist may refer you to an endodontist (a dental specialist) for treatment. The endodontist may look for fractures at the end of the root and will remove and clean the parts of the tooth root that could not be done during regular root canal treatment by your Calgary dentist.
Regarding the overall safety of root canal therapy, the Alberta Dental Association & College, the Canadian Dental Association and the Canadian Academy of Endodontics have all confirmed that root canal therapy is both an effective and safe procedure used for the treatment of a tooth that has inflamed or infected pulp. For more information regarding the Canadian Dental Association’s position on root canal safety, our Calgary dentist refers you to the Joint Public Statement On Root Canal Treatment issued by the Canadian Dental Association and the Canadian Academy of Endodontics.
DO ROOT CANALS CAUSE CANCER?
Patients have also inquired of our Calgary dentist about whether there is any correlation between endodontic (root canal) therapy and cancer. On the Canadian Cancer Society’s website, it indicates that there is no evidence that root canal therapy causes cancer. It does note, however, that there is continuing research being completed on the possible link between your oral health in general and various different kinds of cancer. This is yet another reason our Calgary dentist encourages you to prioritize your oral health by ensuring you have a regular at home oral health routine and attend at your Calgary dental office at least twice per year for regular cleanings and check-ups.
Our Calgary dentist, Dr. Dirk Thompson, also welcomes any questions you may have regarding root canal therapy or any other dental procedures including cosmetic dentistry, general dentistry, children’s dentistry and sedation dentistry. If you would like more information about the safety or efficacy of root canal therapy, or for more general information about how a root canal is performed, our Calgary dentist encourages you to always refer to reputable websites and sources including the Canadian Dental Association’s website and the Mouth Healthy website from the American Dental Association. We also encourage you to visit our very own web page on root canals which contains additional information about this tooth saving dental procedure.
This blog post written by our Calgary dentist, Dr. Dirk Thompson, D.D.S., is for informational purposes only. It is not to be taken or used as a substitute for dental, medical or other professional advice, treatment or diagnosis. Always ask your dentist, physician or other healthcare professional for advice before altering your diet or healthcare routine. Individual patient needs and oral healthcare concerns vary so please consult your dentist for more information about your specific dental health requirements.
Copyright 2021: Dirk A. Thompson Professional Corporation operating as Advance Your Health Dental. Dr. Dirk A. Thompson, D.D.S., is a general dentist in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
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