Root canal therapy is a treatment that is commonly used in restorative dental care to address seriously compromised and infected teeth in order to save them from extraction. While many patients are familiar with root canal therapy, many are not familiar with the specifics of the treatment or aware that there are actually two types of root canal therapy: non-surgical and surgical.

What Is a Root Canal?

A root canal is the name of a specific part of your anatomy, the interior of your tooth’s roots which are shaped like little canals.

The term “root canal” is also commonly used to refer to root canal therapy, a type of dental procedure designed to treat root canals that become infected with bacteria in order to preserve a patient’s natural tooth.

The Purpose of Root Canal Therapy

Ultimately, the purpose of root canal therapy is to save a patient’s natural tooth when it becomes compromised and severely infected.

Root canal therapy is needed when a tooth is severely fractured and the interior (tooth pulp) becomes infected. When this occurs, a root canal is needed to enter the tooth, remove the pulp, and then sterilize the interior of the tooth before filling it and sealing it with a permanent dental crown.

When recommended, this restorative dental treatment is often the only treatment option available to save a patient’s natural tooth from needing to be extracted.

Why You Might Need a Root Canal

Root canal therapy is needed when a tooth’s interior becomes compromised by bacterial infection. Infection can occur as a result of severe damage, decay, or injury to a tooth. Sometimes old, worn-out dental work or dental work of poor quality can result in the interior of a tooth becoming exposed to bacteria and developing an infection.

Root canal therapy is only recommended to patients with no other tooth-saving treatment options available. If left untreated with root canal therapy, the tooth would eventually need to be extracted in order to avoid more serious consequences of an oral infection.

Non-Surgical vs. Surgical Root Canal: What’s the Difference?

Non-Surgical Root Canal

A non-surgical root canal is similar to a dental filling – except that it goes much deeper to treat the tooth. The process of a non-surgical root canal involves drilling the top of a patient’s tooth to reach the interior pulp of the tooth and its root canals. The pulp is then removed from the inside of the tooth and its root canals. The interior portions of the tooth and the canals are then cleaned and sterilized before being filled with gutta-percha (a special material used in dentistry).

Once filled, the tooth is then sealed with a large dental filling and covered with a permanent dental crown. This completely restores the interior and strengthens the exterior of the patient’s natural tooth.

Non-surgical root canal procedures can typically be entirely performed by a dentist with the use of a local anesthetic to prevent the patient from experiencing any pain or discomfort during treatment.

Surgical Root Canal

Surgical root canals (also sometimes referred to as root canal retreatment of endodontic surgery) are similar to non-surgical root canals in that their purpose is to remove a tooth’s infected pulp and sterilize the interior of the tooth before filling the tooth with gutta-percha and restoring it with a dental crown.

Surgical root canals, however, require that an incision be made in the patient’s gum tissues in order to access the exterior portion of the tooth’s roots. This incision prevents damage to a tooth’s existing restorations (if a non-surgical root canal has already been performed).

During a surgical root canal, the root is accessed from the side so that infected tissues can be removed. This might include the end, tip, or fractured portion of a root canal. Depending on the amount of bone that has been removed, the end of the root canal might then be sealed with either a root-end filling (a small dental filling) or with a bone graft to encourage regrowth.

Depending on the extent and complexity of the procedure at hand, surgical root canal therapy can either take place using a local anesthetic to numb the treatment area or with a patient fully sedated under general anesthesia.

Why You Might Need a Surgical Root Canal

Although the most commonly performed procedure is the non-surgical root canal and the vast majority of cases can be adequately resolved with non-surgical treatment, there are several reasons why a patient might need a surgical root canal.

  • A surgical root canal might be necessary if initial treatment with a non-surgical root canal fails or if the infection or damage to the tooth is quite extensive or complex.
  • This type of root canal might also be recommended if it is suspected that the patient has small fractures or hidden canals in their teeth that were not initially detected with an x-ray.
  • A surgical root canal can be used to treat the bone tissues surrounding the tooth, remove calcium deposits, or repair damaged root surfaces.
  • A surgical root canal might be required in order to access the root canals to perform an apicoectomy (root-end resection). This might be necessary if an infection is still present and affecting the surrounding bone structures.
  • A surgical root canal can be needed if a root canal becomes cracked or fractured and subsequently infected after treatment with a non-surgical root canal.

If you are in need of a surgical root canal, our dentist can work closely with you to refer you to a highly skilled and experienced local endodontist with the specialized tools and training necessary to perform this type of endodontic surgery.

Non-Surgical Root Canal Treatment and Dental Crowns in West Bend, Wisconsin

At Dentistry of West Bend, our dentist, Dr. Jared Harding is highly skilled and experienced in non-surgical root canal therapy. If you are in need of root canal treatment or a permanent dental crown, we welcome you to contact our office to schedule a consultation today.