root canal dr chauvin lafayette la

All about root canals

Root canals. You’ve heard the name, you’ve cringed for the poor souls going to the dentist for one, but do you know what a root canal procedure is? Or the reasons you might need one?

The inside of your tooth is filled with a soft material called “pulp” that help your teeth grow into maturity. When that pulp becomes infected or inflamed, it must be removed to relieve pain caused by swelling and minimize permanent damage to your teeth.

There are a few reasons you might need a root canal:

  • Internal tooth decay
  • Multiple dental procedures on the tooth
  • Cracked or chipped tooth

A few signs point to the need for a root canal:

  • Pain
  • Sensitivity to hot and cold
  • Sensitivity to touch
  • Discoloration
  • Swelling, drainage, tenderness in the lymph nodes and gum tissue

The root canal procedure follows these steps:

  1. X-rays taken and anesthetic administered
  2. Crown of the tooth (top of the tooth) opened and pulp removed from the inside of the tooth to make room for filling
  3. Space filled with a rubber-like material and an adhesive cement
  4. Crown placed on top of the tooth to restore it to full function

Root canals are often the subject of dental horror stories, but understanding the steps and going to a trusted and experienced dental provider can help put your mind at ease and relieve your pain. If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms above, consult our team to see how we can help.


Getting a root canal over existing dental work

tooth-anatomy-762x812There are a variety of reasons where a person may need to have a crown on their tooth. Maybe some trauma caused a tooth to crack, or they had a root canal. A person may also have a crown if they had a cavity that was in an area that was too difficult to fill via traditional methods. Regardless of the reason, they have a shiny new crown in place, and some time goes by. Then that tooth starts to hurt again… What does that mean?

There are a few things that could have happened. If the crown didn’t seal properly, bacteria may have gotten under the crown, causing additional damage or cavities. Trauma, such as a fall, sports injury, or traffic accident, can also damage or displace a crown. This would also allow bacteria to get into the underlying tooth and tissue. The end result being that a root canal is required.


What happens if there is already a crown and a root canal is needed?


The dentist will assess the situation and consider a variety of factors before proceeding:


  • Is the crown seated properly?
  • Is it intact?
  • What is causing the pain?
  • Can the crown be salvaged?


If the crown is seated properly and everything is intact, the dentist will be able to perform a root canal or cavity filling through the existing crown, and simply patch the crown when he’s finished. If the crown is damaged or hasn’t sealed properly, the crown will be removed. Replacing the crown will depend on whether or not there is enough remaining tooth structure to support a crown.

It’s important to remember that, while porcelain, crowns are not invincible. Proper dental care is required if a crown is going to last more than a few years. Although they will wear down over time, a crown should last many years before needing a replacement. Cavities can happen to crowns (because there is tooth beneath them), so make sure to brush after meals and floss daily. The edges where the crown meets the gum line, or margins, of the crown are especially susceptible to wear and tear. Make sure to get proper care instructions from the dentist after having a crown put in.

Be sure to notify the dentist if a crowned tooth begins to hurt. Any bacteria that get in under a damaged crown will be impossible to remove via brushing, flossing, and mouthwash. They will continue to eat at what’s beneath the crown until a dentist rectifies the situation, either via a simple cavity filling or a root canal. Having tooth pain? Give Dr. Chauvin a call!

How does a root canal work

How Does a Root Canal Work-Did you know that more than 15 million teeth are treated and saved each year with root canal treatments? Despite those numbers root canals still have a pretty bad reputation.  The root canals stress-inducing reputation took hold several decades ago, when root canal treatment really was painful. Today, its reputation remains unchanged, even though the procedure itself has changed. A survey conducted by the American Association of Endodontists showed that patients who’ve had a root canal performed are six times more likely to describe it as “painless” than those people who have not had root canal treatment.

A simple fix to this bad reputation is understanding the root canal procedure, starting with the anatomy of the tooth. Inside the tooth, under the white enamel and a hard layer called the dentin, is a soft tissue called the pulp. The pulp contains blood vessels, nerves and connective tissue, and helps to grow the root of your tooth during development. In a fully developed tooth, the tooth can survive without the pulp because the tooth continues to be nourished by the tissues surrounding it.

Why is a root canal necessary?

Once the pulp is infected, it must be removed in order to save the tooth. A tooth can become infected for several reasons, including severe tooth decay or a crack or chip in the tooth. The most common way for the pulp to become infected is from an untreated cavity. Failing restorations such as dental fillings and dental crowns can foster bacterial leakage into the dental pulp. Once infected, the dental pulp begins to die and the body’s inflammatory responses set it. The combination of infection and inflammation can cause significant pain. The end result is a toothache. 

You can use the following checklist to help you determine whether a root canal may be called for.


  • Do hot or cold food or beverages cause a toothache?
  • Do you find it excruciatingly painful to eat?
  • Is your tooth sore to the touch?
  • Do you have a severe toothache?
  • Do you have a bump (possibly filled with pus or blood) on your gum?
  • Do you have pain that may radiate from one part of your mouth to another or from your mouth into your head or your ear?

What is the root canal procedure like?

Root canal therapy is a complex procedure that requires both skill and experience. Often requiring one or more visits to the dentist. Luckily, you won’t mind seeing your favorite Lafayette Louisiana dentist, Dr. Chauvin, more than once!  The first step in the procedure is to take an X-ray to see the shape of the root canals and determine if there are any signs of infection in the surrounding bone. Local anesthesia is then used to numb the area.  A drill is used to make small hole through the enamel and dentin, and into the pulp. Using flexible nickel titanium pin-like files, the inside of the canal is shaped. This is done delicately, but thoroughly, to completely remove all traces of infection or debris. This process is performed with a great deal of care in order to minimize damage or trauma to the surrounding ligaments and bone.

The next step is to disinfect and seal the tooth using a special type of heat gun to fill the canal with a material called gutta-percha. Gutta-percha is a natural, biocompatible, anti-bacterial material that expands and seals the hollowed area within the span of about 15 minutes. 

If the root canal is not completed on the same day, a temporary filling is placed in the exterior hole in the tooth to keep contaminants out between appointments.


The final step may involve further restoration of the tooth. Because a tooth that needs root canal therapy often is one that has a large filling or extensive decay or other weakness, a crown, crown and post, or other restoration often needs to be placed on the tooth to protect it, prevent it from breaking, and restore it to full function.

If you are experiencing pain or think you may need a root canal give Dr. Chauvin in Lafayette Louisiana a call today.