For more than 100 years the University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Dentistry has provided exceptional dental education and service to Nebraskans and beyond through premier educational programs, innovative research and clinical care.
From regular checkups and cleanings to braces and dentures, the dental college provides the highest quality patient care in all areas at affordable costs. To find out more about programs and services visit the website at http://www.unmc.edu/dentistry or call 402-472-1301.
|Lane Stephenson, D.D.S., is an assistant professor of Endodontics in the department of surgical specialties at the UNMC College of Dentistry. Dr. Stephenson received his D.D.S from Louisiana State University School of Dentistry, New Orleans, Louisiana and his Certificate (Endodontics) at the University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Dentistry, Lincoln, Nebraska.|
|What is a root canal?
Root canal is a procedure to remove the infected nerve tissue within the tooth. During the process we also shape the inside of the tooth so we can actually fill that space with an inert material that allows that space to be sealed off. It disinfects and fills the canal space and it takes a little bit longer than having a filling done, but it is a little bit more lengthy procedure. It is quite common, there are quite a few root canals done every year, I think on the average we are talking 10 million root canals are needed every year, so the general dentist more than likely will do the root canal if it is possible for them to do that, but there is a need for a specialist as well.
|Why do I need a root canal?
Bacteria. For some reason bacteria has gained access to the inside of your tooth and has infected the nerve tissue that we call the pulp. How it happens is a number of ways, you can have a deep cavity, you can have a crack or fracture, you can have severe gum disease or periodontal disease, trauma, sometimes trauma will initiate an infection in the teeth and there’s unknown causes as well, there is no particular reason why, it’s just happened. Usually it manifestate as pain initially, sometimes you will get an increase to hot or cold or chewing, unfortunate individuals get a large bowless of pain that is totally unexpected, it hasn’t been building over time, but that is not really usually the normal scenario, but it does happen.
|Why might I need a specialist to do a root canal?
Well, your general dentist may be able to do the root canal depending on the situation and the complexity of the tooth as to whether your general dentist feels comfortable performing that procedure. A specialist has completed extra years of training just to complete root canals or perform root canal therapy. On average a dental student in their course of instruction will maybe do five to ten teeth. Over the career of an endodontist, a dental specialist, they may do 20,000 plus teeth, so the experience level is quite a bit different between the general dentist and the endodontist.
Will having a root canal hurt?
It shouldn’t hurt. Profound anesthesia is common place today, especially with the modern anesthetics that we use. They’re very safe and very, very effective. I’ve had five root canals and they were the less stressful appointments I‘ve had. The advantage of having a root canal done, either by your general dentist or endodontist is such that we are after the root pulp and to eliminate it so we have licensed to actually go a little bit further in the anesthetic realm than trying to save that nerve tissue, so you can really anesthetize the pulp adequately. In some rare cases some people elect to have IV sedation or some sort of oral sedation, but that is usually not necessary, it’s a very, actually boring procedure for the most part, many people just fall asleep.
| How long will a root canal take and how successful is the procedure?
It varies from case to case as to how long it takes, I’ve cases take as little as 28 minutes, and I had one case that I remember vividly that took six hours, of course that was over two appointment periods and that was over twenty ago as well. On average a person can expect to have it take about 45 minutes to an hour and a half. The success rate is about 90 percent according to the studies, which is comparable to that of implants, so when you look at the root canal verses implants controversy or decision making process, implants are really good in a last resort situation, but if you can save the tooth is probably the better implant. For the most part well done implants can last decades.
COD Fast Facts:
The UNMC College of Dentistry at a glance.
Proud History: For 13 of the past 18 years the college ranks highest in incoming GPA of any dentistry program in the USA.
Quality Education: Our students consistently shine with high board scores in both the dental and dental hygiene programs and the college offers strong residency programs in endodontics, general dentistry, orthodontics, pediatric dentistry and periodontics.
Service: Our commitment to service is evident in the strong clinical community service programs that provide outreach to underserved populations across the state.