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Root Canal Awareness Week is March 27-April 2

The ability to save an injured or diseased tooth is one of dentistry’s greatest achievements. In the past, such teeth frequently had to be removed. But with endodontic treatment—more commonly known as root canal treatment —performed by an endodontist or general dentist, a restored tooth could last a lifetime.

The American Association of Endodontists is celebrating Root Canal Awareness Week March 27-April 2 in part to help dispel the myth that root canals are painful. A recent AAE survey showed that 70 percent of Americans fear losing a natural tooth. However, that same percentage also fears root canal treatment, the exact procedure that can save the tooth.

Root canal treatment involves the removal and replacement of a tooth’s pulp, which is the soft tissue containing blood vessels, nerves and connective tissue. The pulp is inside a canal that runs through the center of the hard tissue on the inside of the tooth, from the crown down through the tip of the root in the jawbone.

If the pulp becomes damaged through injury or disease and cannot repair itself, bacteria can leak into the pulp and cause it to die. Without a root canal, an abscess can form at the tip of the root and cause considerable pain. Even without pain, the bone anchoring the tooth in the jaw can be damaged. Without treatment, the tooth may have to be extracted.

Root canal treatment is recommended as a way to actually save the tooth, which is a high priority for most patients. In the AAE survey, more respondents indicated a desire to avoid losing a permanent tooth or getting root canal treatment than paying taxes or speaking in public. But two-thirds also ranked root canals as the dental procedure they most fear, more than having a tooth pulled or a cavity filled.

That fear is based on outdated misconceptions, says the American Association of Endodontists. As partners in patient care, endodontists and general dentists provide high-quality, pain-free care. In fact, a previous AAE survey found that 89 percent of patients were satisfied when they received treatment from an endodontist, and the AAE also found that the vast majority of general dentists, 93 percent, agree that endodontists are important partners in delivering quality dental care.

“The AAE is thrilled that general practitioners, as much as endodontists, cherish the importance of partnership for the well-being of all patients,” said Dr. Clara M. Spatafore, AAE president. “The main goal is to provide patients with an easy and comfortable transition between their dentist and endodontist, through open communication between the doctors. We want dentists to understand that we will take care of their patients to the best of our ability and send them back with a positive experience behind them.”

More than one office visit is usually required for root canal treatment. On the first visit, local anesthetic is used to maintain patient comfort while the pulp is removed through an opening in the crown of the tooth. The root is cleaned and shaped, and medication may be added to the pulp chamber and root canal(s) to help eliminate bacteria. A temporary filling is then placed in the crown opening. Antibiotics may be prescribed if an infection is present.

On the second visit, the root canal is filled and permanently sealed. A metal or plastic rod or post may be placed in the root canal for structural support. Often when an endodontist performs the procedure, he or she will send the patient back to the general dentist for preparation of a crown to be placed on the tooth.

The American Association of Endodontists offers resources for patients and general dentists regarding referrals and endodontic treatment. Visit “www.aae.org” for more information.

Additional guidelines regarding good oral hygiene and regular dental visits can be found on the American Dental Association’s website,ADA.org.

©2010 American Dental Association. All rights reserved. Reproduction or republication is strictly prohibited without the prior written permission from the American Dental Association.

03/16/2011

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