No toothache is a good toothache. But a toothache can seem especially nasty when it's one of your molar teeth, the largest teeth found in the back of your mouth. Used for chewing and grinding food, molars are important to your oral health. Without them you wouldn't be able to eat -- and your jawbone would start to deteriorate, giving your cheeks the sunken look that's often associated with aging.
A toothache could be a sign your molar needs a root canal -- or molar endodontics, as dentists and endodontists might refer to it. Regardless, any sign of tooth discomfort means you should see a dentist -- and fast! Unfortunately, at-home toothache remedies aren't going to fix your problem -- in fact, tooth decay will just continue to grow, which could lead to more costly dental problems or even tooth loss if not treated.
The Inner Workings of a Molar Root Canal
Although molar endodontics is a common type of dental treatment in many dental offices, not everyone knows how the procedure works. Of course, every procedure varies from patient to patient, but the typical molar endodontic treatment usually adheres to the following game plan:
Molar Root Canal Preparation -- A local anesthesia is injected to numb the area and a rubber dam is placed in your mouth to protect the tooth from irritants.
Drilling -- Your dentist drills a hole in the tooth's crown to remove any existing tooth decay and open the pulp chamber.
Removal of the Infected Pulp -- Titanium files remove the pulp and dead nerves found within the tooth's roots. During this time, an apex locator may be used to determine the length of each root. The apex locator uses sound waves to locate the end of the root, reducing the possibility of leaving any infection behind.
Root Cleaning -- The root is cleaned and sterilized with an antibiotic gel. Your dentist may choose to use laser dentistry to better remove bacteria from the porous dentin that surrounds the empty root.
Filling -- The roots' walls are sealed to protect the tooth from irritation -- the empty roots are then filled with gutta percha, a rubbery antibacterial material used specifically for endodontic procedures.
Dental Crown Preparation -- Your dentist will prepare your tooth for a dental crown by taking an impression of the area and sending it to a dental laboratory for construction. In the meantime, your tooth will be capped with a temporary dental crown to protect the root canal.
Dental Crown Placement -- During your follow-up appointment, your dental crown will be permanently cemented onto your tooth.
Molar endodontics may require more time and precision than root canal therapy performed in other areas of the mouth because molars contain more than one root. Although many dentists are trained to perform a molar root canal, more complicated cases may require an endodontist, or root canal specialist.
Nothing to Fear
It's hard to imagine today that molar endodontics used to evoke dental anxiety in patients -- once upon a time, it took several visits to complete the process, not to mention that the procedure and recovery could be an uncomfortable experience. New technology and advanced dental equipment has made it easier for dentists to successfully perform molar endodontic procedures. Most modern molar root canals are practically pain-free and finished in just one visit.
If the idea of molar endodontics still leaves you feeling squeamish, you may want to consider laser root canal therapy. Laser surgery removes the infection without the use of drills or files and limits the need for local dental anesthesia. Sedation dentistry is also an excellent option for the anxious dental patient -- there are many forms of conscious sedation available to help you relax during your endodontic appointment.