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John A. Cooper Jr. D.M.D.

  • General & Family Dentistry in Lancaster, PA

Root Canals...

Yes, it can be tough hearing the words "Root Canal", but this procedure has gotten a bad rap, usually because people wait too long to address a situation and then it gets out of hand. A regular checkup can usually catch problems early, but not to worry, we can fix the bad problems as well. Don't let fear of a root canal keep you from treating the problem...you deserve to have a comfortable and healthy smile.

What is it?

Teeth have very little circulation. So after a lifetime of wear and tear the inside part of the tooth can become calcified and the nerve gets smaller and smaller. When you were a child and your tooth was brand new and the pulp was larger. But as the tooth gets beaten up with eating, drinking, chewing hard foods, cavities and fillings; gradually the pulp gets smaller. This can sometimes cause the circulation to be interrupted and then an abscess forms. Sometimes it hurts and sometimes it doesn’t hurt at all and we find them on routine x-rays. Regular checkups with a thorough exam can help treat this problem before it gets out of hand.

When there is an abscess, we need to clean out the dead or infected tissue inside the tooth. You should never leave a chronic infection unchecked. To explain the procedure of a root canal, picture a candle with a wick. Your tooth is the candle and the pulp is the wick. When you have a tooth that has gone bad for whatever reason; decay or wear and tear, we just take the wick out of the candle and fill it with medicine. Another analogy that explains this is taking the lead out of the pencil. That’s all there is to it. One other important note, once the tooth has had root canal therapy, it should be protected with a crown which is stronger. Once the nerve or pulp of the tooth has been removed, it is much like a hollow tree, weaker than a whole tree and more prone to fracture. So, once your root canal is completed you should follow with strengthening the tooth with a crown.

The Myths...

Root Canals have received a bad rap, so we want to clear up some myths.

Myth # 1...Root canals are painful. Most people experience little to no pain during the procedure and the procedure itself actually alleviates the pain.

Myth # 2... A Root Canal requires several appointments.

Actually a root canal can usually be completed in one or two visits (depending on the extent of the infection)

Myth # 3...My teeth don't hurt, I don't need a root canal. Teeth that require a root canal are not always painful. Teeth that are already dead may require root canal therapy to prevent infection. This is why regular checkups are very important.