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Root Canals

Root Canals

Root canals save teeth

We are happy to be able to provide endodontic therapy, commonly called a root canal, to our patients.  Root canals are performed to save teeth that may other-wise require extraction.  A root canal is recommended when decay reaches the nerve deep inside the tooth or the nerve is exposed through injury.  Contrary to popular belief, root canals should not be painful.  The goal of a root canal is to remove the infected nerve from the tooth and clean all of the nerve canals.  Disinfection of the canal system and then proper sealing allows the body to clear any infection that is started around the roots of the tooth.

What are signs that you may need a root canal?  There are four distinct stages that can be used to describe the health of the nerve of a tooth.  These include normal healthy pulp, reversible pulpits, irreversible pulpits, and pulpal necrosis.  Dr. Hopkinson uses several testing methods to determine the health of the pulp (nerve) of the tooth.  These include cold testing, heat testing, electronic pulp testing, and percussion testing.


A normal healthy pulp (nerve) is usually found in a tooth with no cavities or previous large restorations.  A diagnosis of reversible pulpits is made when a tooth has a cavity that has not yet reached the nerve. Signs of reversible pulpits include cold sensitivity that is brief and does not linger.  A diagnosis of a normal healthy pulp or reversible pulpitis does not indicate that a tooth needs a root canal but rather points towards no treatment or possibly a filling.

The two types of pulpal diagnosis’ that indicate that a root canal is needed include irreversible pulpits and pulpal necrosis.  In irreversible pulpitis, the pulp of the tooth is inflamed due to direct contamination of the nerve with bacteria from a large cavity or crack in the tooth.  Contamination of the inside of the tooth with bacteria results in increased blood flow and inflammation much like a cut on your hand or arm. Signs of irreversible pulpitis include intense temperature sensitivity that lingers long after the cold or hot object is removed.  A tooth can pass from a stage of irreversible pulpitis to pulpal necrosis over a period of time.  Pulpal necrosis means that the nerve of the tooth has died.  When the nerve of the tooth dies, all blood flow to the tooth goes away.  The inside of the tooth is contaminated with bacteria resulting in an infection settling in on the roots of the teeth in the bone.  A necrotic tooth is what causes swelling and random aching.  When a tooth has become necrotic or is in the stage of irreversible inflammation, a root canal is needed.

Dr. Hopkinson is pleased to describe the basic process of a root canal.  “We first review your medical history and the procedure including pros and cons of treatment.  We then answer any questions you may have.  Topical anesthetic is placed to make the injection of anesthetic as pain-free as possible.  Complete anesthesia is achieved.  We then isolate the tooth with a rubber dam.  The rubber dam keeps the working area sterile and keeps our disinfecting agents out of your mouth.  We remove all decay and place a filling if needed.  Next, we remove the infected nerve of the tooth and clean all of the nerve canals.  The canals are then disinfected and a filling material is placed to seal the canals of the tooth.  The access cavity is then filled with a tooth colored filling.  Often times after a root canal, a crown will be recommended to reinforce the tooth and prevent fracture.  Root canals can normally be completed in only one or two comfortable appointments and have a high success rate under most circumstances.”

Give us a call today if you think you may need a root canal.  We reserve spots for emergency patients to be seen the same-day for most circumstances.

Tooth-Colored Fillings_icon

Tooth-Colored Fillings

Repair Decayed Tooth Structure
Porcelain Crowns_icon

Porcelain Crowns

Repair Broken Teeth or Large Cavities
Root Canal Therapy_icon

Root Canal Therapy

Saving Natural Teeth

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