Online Dental Education Library
Our team of dental specialists and staff strive to improve the overall health of our patients by focusing on preventing, diagnosing and treating conditions associated with your teeth and gums. Please use our dental library to learn more about dental problems and treatments available. If you have questions or need to schedule an appointment, contact us.
When to See a Periodontist
Periodontal treatment may be sought in several ways. Your general dentist or a hygienist may recommend a consultation with a periodontist if they find signs of periodontal disease through the course of a checkup or other dental care appointment. You may also decide to see a periodontist on your own, as a referral is not necessary to be seen at our office.
In fact, if you experience any of these symptoms, we encourage you to schedule an appointment at our office without delay:
- Unexplained bleeding while performing regular cleaning or consuming food is the most common sign of a periodontal infection.
- Ongoing halitosis (bad breath), which continues despite rigorous oral cleaning, can point to periodontitis, gingivitis or the beginnings of a gum infection.
- Longer-looking and loose-feeling teeth can indicate recession of the gums and/or bone loss as a result of periodontal disease.
Patients with heart disease, diabetes, osteopenia or osteoporosis are often diagnosed with correlating periodontal infections. The bacterial infection can spread through the blood stream, affecting other areas of the body.
- Bleeding while brushing or eating normal foods
- Bad breath
- Loose teeth and gum recession
- Related health concerns
What is Periodontal Disease?
Periodontal disease is a chronic infection of the periodontal or gum tissue. This infection is caused by the presence of a bacterial film, which is called dental plaque, that forms on the teeth surfaces. Bacteria that found in dental plaque produce toxins which irritate the gums. They may cause them to turn red, swell and bleed easily. If this irritation is prolonged, the gums separate from the teeth, causing pockets (spaces) to form. Plaque can also harden into a rough, porous substance known as calculus (or tartar). This can occur both above and below the gum line.
As periodontal diseases progress, the supporting gum tissue and bone that holds teeth in place deteriorate. If left untreated, this leads to tooth loss. With periodontal disease, bleeding, redness and swelling do not have to be present. Further, pain is usually not associated with periodontal disease. This disease damages the teeth, gum and jawbone of more than 80% of Americans by age 45. Each case is looked at individually, because in addition to plaque there are co-factors such as genetics, smoking, and overall health, which contribute to disease severity. Once periodontal disease is detected, our goal as therapists is to provide information and treatment necessary to control/ or arrest the active infection, and help keep the disease in an inactive or controlled state.
However, don’t be fooled!
With periodontal disease, bleeding, redness and swelling do not have to be present. The periodontal disease symptoms of inflammation may only be evident with sub gingival probing. Further, pain is usually not associated with periodontal disease.
Most of the time, root canal therapy is effective at permanently relieving tooth pain and halting infection of the soft tissues deep inside the teeth and gums. But occasionally, as in any medical procedure, the body may not heal as we expect it to. After a period of time, you may experience pain in the affected tooth again — or, even if you have no symptoms, x-rays may reveal that infection is still present near the tooth's roots. In that case, you may need root canal retreatment.
There are several reasons why your root canal treatment may not have succeeded at first. The “canals” themselves are slender, forking passageways deep inside the tooth that enclose nerves and blood vessels: the tooth's soft “pulp.” They can be so narrow and intricate that some may have gone undetected, or failed to respond to treatment the first time. Or, the canals might have become recontaminated via a number of routes: a delayed or ineffective crown restoration, new tooth decay, advancing gum disease, or a cracked or fractured tooth. Any of these conditions could result in reinfection.
If initial root canal (endodontic) therapy has failed, the first thing to do is evaluate your options. Besides retreatment, the alternatives may include endodontic surgery or extraction (removal) of the tooth. However, a missing tooth should be replaced by a dental implant, a bridge or a partial denture as soon as possible — and none of these are simple or inexpensive options. That's part of the reason we prefer to help you retain your natural teeth whenever possible.
The Retreatment Procedure
If endodontic retreatment is appropriate for you, the procedure is similar to a routine root canal, with a few added measures. After you are anesthetized (usually with a numbing shot), any restorations presently on your tooth — crowns, for example — will be altered to provide access to the root canal filling material. This is usually accomplished by making a small opening into the inner part of the tooth, removing filling material or obstructions, and cleaning the pulp chambers with tiny instruments.
A microscope and light are used to search carefully for additional canals or unusual structures. If the treatment process becomes extremely complex, it may be finished in a subsequent visit. Finally, when all the canals have been cleaned and disinfected, they will be filled with inert material and sealed. Then a temporary filling will be placed in the tooth. A permanent restoration will need to be placed at a later time.
Is Root Canal Retreatment My Best Option?
Medicine and dentistry are as much art as science, and neither one can guarantee that any procedure will be 100% successful. While endodontic retreatment can be more complex than initial root canal therapy, it offers a good chance of success in many instances. And, since the field of endodontics is constantly evolving, it may be possible to use new techniques that weren't available when your first root canal procedure was done.
Dentists take seriously our responsibility to help you understand the risks, benefits and alternatives for treating root canal problems. When we recommend retreatment, it's because we feel it is the best way for you to preserve your natural teeth — and we want you to be able to enjoy them for many years to come.