Inside every tooth is a cavity that houses nerves, blood vessels, and connective tissue (collectively referred to as dental pulp). This cavity—called the pulp chamber—is centrally located in the crown portion of the tooth and extends down through the tooth roots by way of canals.
When a tooth is damaged or decayed, the nerves and other delicate pulp material inside the root canals can become infected, frequently leading to significant pain and sometimes even abscesses. In order to resolve these issues and avoid tooth extraction, root canal therapy is typically necessary.
- What Is a Root Canal?
- Do I Need a Root Canal?
- GentleWave® Root Canal Procedure
- Standard Root Canal Procedure
What Is a Root Canal?
Root canal therapy is a treatment performed to eliminate infection from a tooth’s root canal system, protect against future reinfection, and save the tooth from extraction. To do this, harmful bacteria and infected pulp tissue are removed from inside the tooth, the root canals and pulp chamber are extensively cleansed, and the tooth is filled and sealed.
At Arcadia Endodontics, our board-certified endodontists—Dr. Kevin Axx and Dr. Collin Clatanoff—are highly skilled and experienced in performing root canal therapy using state-of-the-art techniques that promote long-term success and optimal patient comfort. In fact, our practice is one of only a few in Phoenix and the surrounding areas to employ the GentleWave® System, which is a minimally invasive alternative to traditional root canal therapy that can result in more thorough bacteria removal and disinfection, little to no discomfort, and a reduced potential for future retreatment.
Do I Need a Root Canal?
A root canal is generally necessary when an infection occurs due to unresolved tooth decay, tooth cracks/damage, deep cavities, and/or issues from previous fillings. Some of the most common signs that indicate you may need a root canal include:
- Sharp or intense pain when biting or chewing
- Extreme sensitivity to hot and cold sensations
- Lingering discomfort following consumption of hot or cold substances
- Chronic tooth aching
- A constant bad taste in the mouth
- Tenderness, swelling, throbbing, and/or discoloration of gum tissue
- Pimples on the gums
- Fever-like symptoms
When left untreated, an infection within a tooth will not heal on its own—and can even spread to other areas, including the jaw, head, and neck. In rare instances, an uncontrolled infection may grow in severity to the point that it leads to life-threatening conditions, such as sepsis.
If you are experiencing any of the symptoms listed above—or if your specific concerns are not listed but you suspect a tooth infection—we encourage you to schedule a consultation with one of our endodontists. Using advanced technologies like Cone Beam CT scanning, Dr. Clatanoff or Dr. Axx can evaluate your teeth and other oral structures with exceptional visualization from virtually every angle, enabling them to diagnose any issues present and develop a customized treatment plan based on your unique needs.
GentleWave® Root Canal Procedure
The GentleWave® Procedure is a revolutionary root canal technique that utilizes fluid dynamics and broad-spectrum acoustic energy to comprehensively disinfect and sanitize the root canal system and pulp chamber of an infected tooth.
To begin treatment, Dr. Axx or Dr. Clatanoff will isolate the targeted tooth with a protective latex sheet (“rubber dam”), and numb it with a local anesthetic until it is adequately desensitized. Next, a tiny hole is made vertically through the top of the tooth in order to access the pulp chamber and root canal system for cleaning.
The GentleWave® System is then used to send a vortex of special sanitizing fluid into the tooth to disinfect and clean. Upon delivery, this fluid is propelled throughout the entirety of the root canal system and pulp chamber via broad-spectrum acoustic energy, enabling it to reach and cleanse even the smallest of spaces in which bacteria can hide.
GentleWave® Procedure Advantages
- Minimally Invasive
- Higher Standard of Clean
- Reduced Postoperative Pain
- Faster Healing
With standard root canal treatment, this level of cleanliness is not always possible due to the difficulty of navigating the complex anatomies of some root canals with manual instruments, as well as the inability to reach all microscopic spaces where bacteria can accumulate. In addition, traditional root canal therapy sometimes requires the removal of part of the tooth’s natural structure in order to achieve an optimal level of sanitization, whereas the efficacy of the GentleWave® Procedure allows for maximal tooth structure conservation.
Once the disinfection and cleaning process is complete, the pulp chamber is filled with a biocompatible dental material and sealed to prevent bacteria from re-entering. A temporary filling is then placed to close the opening of the tooth. This filling will later need to be replaced with a permanent filling or crown by your primary dentist to help protect and restore full function to the tooth. If you do not have a primary dentist, we can refer you to one.
In the majority of cases, root canal therapy with the GentleWave® System can be completed in a single visit, and most of our patients describe experiencing little to no discomfort both during and after treatment. Furthermore, the effectiveness of the GentleWave® Procedure has proved to significantly reduce—and often even eliminate—the potential need for retreatments over time.
Real Patients Discuss Their GentleWave® Procedure Experience
Standard Root Canal Procedure
In some instances, a standard root canal may be an appropriate and effective option for successfully disinfecting and saving a tooth. When this is the case, Dr. Clatanoff or Dr. Axx will first administer a local anesthetic to properly numb the affected tooth. A protective latex sheet called a “rubber dam” is then placed around the tooth to isolate it and keep it clean and dry throughout treatment.
Next, a small opening is made through the top of the tooth to access the pulp chamber, and specialized instruments are used to carefully remove bacteria and infected tissue from the root canal system and pulp cavity. If necessary, these instruments may also be utilized to moderately re-contour the internal tooth structure to better cleanse the root canal system and pulp chamber and/or prepare the space for filling.
Once disinfection and sanitization is complete, a biocompatible material is used to fill and seal the root canal system and pulp chamber, and a temporary filling is placed to close the tooth opening. This filling will eventually need to be replaced with a permanent filling or crown by your primary dentist for optimal long-term tooth function and protection. If needed, we can refer you to a dentist for your permanent restoration.
Depending on the severity of infection and overall treatment complexity, traditional root canal therapy typically takes anywhere from one to three visits to perform. Our endodontists do everything in their power to make treatment as comfortable as possible—and most patients say they experienced minimal to no pain. That said, we do offer sedation endodontics if you are particularly susceptible to discomfort and/or feel any degree of anxiety toward treatment.
When performed properly by an experienced, board-certified endodontist such as Dr. Axx or Dr. Clatanoff, standard root canal therapy has a success rate of up to 90–95 percent.
Book an Appointment at Arcadia Endodontics
To learn more about root canal therapy, or if you are seeking treatment and wish to schedule a consultation with one of our respected endodontists, please feel free to contact us online or by telephone today.