Despite all the bad press, root canals are actually a good thing. The major advantage of a root canal is that it helps you avoid extraction. Losing a tooth can set off a whole series of long-term complications that can do a real number on dental health. Thanks to root canal therapy, you get to keep your tooth — without the pain or decay.
Unfortunately, the mere mention of the term "root canal" is enough to send people running in the opposite direction. Which isn’t surprising, given the fact that so much of what’s associated with the procedure are typically horror stories (which are no longer even relevant) from friends and family, or simply bad information about the treatment itself. But what most don't realize, is there have been so many advancements in dentistry —specifically in the specialty of endodontics — that it is now time for us to stop thinking of root canals as cringe worthy.
How endodontists make root canals stress free
Because so many people have had root canals performed by their general dentist, often times the first thing I hear from my patients is, "I didn't even know that someone like you existed!" But of course we (endodontists) DO exist and are here to make your root canal experience as stress free and uneventful as humanly possible. The term endodontist means one who works within (“endo”) the tooth (“odont”). As such, endodontists receive additional, specialized training in root canals beyond their dental school education. And in private practice, root canals and anything having to do with root canals is their sole focus. This extensive training and experience with complex tooth issues, root systems and advanced infections is what lets endodontists provide a patient experience that’s much more skilled and streamlined.
New dental technology improves the patient experience
There are a number of advances in dentistry that are helping to make the procedure easier and the patient experience better. One such example is the use of the dental operating microscope. Because the microscope provides a magnified view of the tooth under an LED light, the endodontist gains better, quicker and easier access to the nerve chamber where the tooth’s nerves are housed in tiny canals. And that alone cuts procedure time considerably. Another useful tool that aids in canal location is the ultrasonic. The ultrasonic allows for minimal removal of actual tooth structure when locating canals. It’s especially useful when posts (from previous, now-failing root canals) and other obstructions or calcifications are present in the tooth.
Additionally, even tools that allow work to be more automated are making a significant impact in the ease of treatment. For instance, today a rotary instrument is used to file away the infected tissue, unlike back in the “old days,” when it would have been done by hand. The use of electric handpieces offers a significantly improved patient experience in that they are faster in drilling away decay and tooth structure, and in accessing teeth through existing crowns. And to the relief of many patients, they are also much quieter than traditional air-driven tools. Many also use fiber optic lights, which offer the endodontist clearer visualization of the area in which they are working.
Digital radiography is a game changer
Updated imaging tools and practices are also incredibly helpful. Endodontic procedures are very technique sensitive and require radiographs mid-procedure to confirm that the roots are being cleansed to their respective lengths. The use of digital radiography and literal immediate visualization eliminates the need to wait for manually developed film, thus reduces procedure time considerably. With just the click of a button, the radiographic image is immediately transferred and available for viewing on the computer monitor.
The CBCT (cone beam computed tomography) is another way endodontics can get a clearer picture (literally and figuratively) of the underlying issue and how to treat it. The CBCT is essentially a 3D scan of a section of the mouth that allows for more precise diagnosing of a particular tooth. This is helpful when making decisions regarding the long-term prognosis of a tooth, the location of difficult-to-find canals, the intricate tooth anatomy and more.
Little touches maximize patient comfort
And, of course, we haven’t even mentioned all of the amenities most up-to-date practices can offer to make the experience more comfortable (such as WiFi, noise-cancelling headphones, in-operatory televisions, built-in massagers on many dental chairs, supportive neck pillows and room-dimming eye shades). All of these modern considerations, technological advances and ever-increasing medical know-how are helping to transform the idea of a root canal from a thing of horror into what it really is — a procedure conducted by a skilled specialist to help you maintain your tooth for your best oral health possible.