At Riverside Dental Arts, we tend to recoil when we hear the illustrative slant, “…as bad as a root canal,” since we know, using modern techniques, a root canal is far from its terrible reputation.

Of course, having any dental treatment that involves drilling into a tooth is something we all wish to avoid. However, when necessary, today’s root canals can save a natural tooth while being far more comfortable than the cringe-worthy procedure it has been labeled to be.

In most cases, the procedure for a root canal is similar to that performed for filling a tooth (cavity repair). Like a filling or a crown (cap), a root canal can help to save a tooth from tooth loss. The difference is a filling or crown repairs and protects the tooth structure above the gum line, whereas a root canal repairs and protects it in its root system — below the gums.

When is a root canal needed?

To understand the need for a root canal, let’s look at the tooth itself. Consider that each natural tooth is held by the jaw bone by a root or roots. These roots are like ‘legs’ that have a center portion with a narrow tunnel inside. These tunnels are what contains the nerves, blood vessels and other soft tissues of the tooth.

The contents of these tunnels are actually known as a tooth’s pulp chamber. The pulp helps nourish and hydrate the tooth, providing it with resiliency and strength. The pulp is also what involves natural teeth with other parts of the body.

For example, the pulp extends from the roots and into the jaw, which is fed by its blood vessels. This is one reason why the jaw bone shrinks in the absence of natural tooth roots.

The pulp also holds nerves that carry signals to the brain. For example, when you drink hot coffee or eat ice-cream, the pulp is what signals the tooth it has come in contact with these substances.

For several reasons, however, the pulp can become infected. This can be the result of a crack or fracture, cavity, or injury to the tooth. Symptoms typically include pain and swelling in the area.

A root canal is designed to save the tooth by removing the dead nerve tissue and infection that is occurring inside its root. Without resolving this infection, the tooth will most likely require removal.

Dr. Kenneth Black

In our office, Dr. Black performs most root canals. He brings a particular level of skills to the procedure to create optimal comfort and efficiency. He begins by administering

numbing medications with a gentle hand.

He begins by using a small drill to make an opening in the top of the tooth to access the pulp chamber. Using special tools, Dr. Black removes the infected nerve and cleans the canal inside the tooth.

He then dries and fills the chamber with a special material. To further protect the tooth, a crown is normally placed. Without the crown, reinfection is a possibility.

Why is saving a natural tooth so important?

Each tooth has a role and, as mentioned prior, it does not stand alone. A tooth interacts with other parts of your body while providing support to neighboring teeth. Saving a tooth helps to prevent future problems from occurring to other teeth and keeps the jaw bone that supports it at a healthy mass.

While a root canal is designed to avoid tooth removal, like any medical or dental procedure, there are no guarantees that it will be successful in all cases. While our success rate is excellent, rare circumstances can require tooth removal after all. For instance, a tooth root may have a crack in it, making it impossible to seal the canal and prevent reinfection. 

The good news is, if you find you need a root canal, you can rest assured that the procedure will be performed with optimal comfort and efficiency. As with all procedures at Riverside Dental Arts, we will use gentle, skilled, and compassionate hands.

New patients are always welcome. If you or someone you know is in need of regular dental care or has a specific need, please call 910-254-4555 to learn more. We also offer a free consultation to answer your questions and discuss how we may be the right dental office for you.


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