What are Fillings, Crowns, and Root Canals?!? (Oh My)

What are Fillings, Crowns, and Root Canals?!? (Oh My)

We’ve all heard of them and many of us have had (at least) one of them, but do we really know what they actually are? And, maybe more importantly, do we actually know what happens when Dr. Monica performs one of these procedures in our mouths? Many patients have asked, so we’ve decided to put it out there and answer the age-old questions – 

What are fillings, crowns, and root canals… actually? (The no-fear required truth)

To start, let’s keep it simple. 

Dental fillings (AKA – one of the most basic tenants of restorative dentistry)

Fillings are the treatment used by Dr. Monica when you have decay present on your teeth, whether identified by taking and reading X-rays or by just visually seeing the decay with her eyes. 

The actual decay on your teeth can be the result of plaque remaining on your teeth for extended periods of time (either not brushing or flossing – or by not brushing properly), by eating sugary foods, or drinking sugar-filled drinks. Once a portion of your tooth becomes decayed, that decay will never naturally go away. The worse problem though, is that if decay on your teeth remains untreated, it will only get worse and grow in size. 

A great mantra to remember is that your treatment plan, in whatever form (fillings, crowns, etc.) will never get easier, simpler, or less expensive than it is. It will only become worse, more complex, and more expensive if you put it off. 

Simply put – fillings are best to get completed soon after they’re identified. 

What happens during the filling visit?

One of our awesome dental assistants will bring you back to your room, complete with Netflix, live TV, or music. We’ll get the desired portion of your mouth numb and then Dr. Monica will come in and simply remove the decayed portion of your tooth. From there, either Dr. Monica or Rachel (our EFDA – Expanded Function Dental Assistant) place a tooth-colored filling to restore your tooth back to its original size and look. 

Your numbness should wear off about 30-90 minutes after your appointment, and once that happens you’re free to eat and drink as you normally would during the day. We ask that you wait that long so that you don’t accidentally bite a chunk out of your tongue or cheek. 

If we let diagnosed decay go untreated for an extended period of time, the cavity gets bigger (sometimes rather quickly) and you’ll eventually need…

A Root Canal 

From your perspective (as the patient) the root canal really isn’t much different than a filling. Once we get you numb and comfortable, Dr. Monica will drill through the crown of the tooth into your canal. From there, we’ll make sure to remove the nerve, clean out the canal, and place a filling into the canal to seal it off. Then a tooth-colored filling is placed so the tooth will appear unchanged from the outside. 

Is a root canal painful and does it take a long time?

Not painful at all. Dr. Monica will make sure you’re completely numb before she begins, so you will not feel a thing. And the process itself doesn’t take much longer than a filling. We’ll typically schedule these appointments for about an hour while we most commonly schedule simple filling cases for about 45 minutes. 

What causes the need for a root canal?

As we said in the filling section, if we let untreated decay remain on our teeth for an extended period of time, if we sustain an injury to the tooth and its nerve, or if your tooth becomes infected for some reason, these are all common conditions that will require a root canal to begin restoring your tooth. 

In any of these cases, you may experience pain in your tooth or it may become discolored, either of which would indicate that you need to have a dentist take a look (with an exam and an X-ray that can show the tooth and surrounding area). 

What does removing the nerve (via a root canal) do to relieve my pain or condition?

An injured, infected, or inflamed nerve is a common cause of pain in the mouth. Once we’re able to remove that nerve from your tooth’s canal, the irritant (the nerve) along with any bacteria present in the canal will be gone – and so should your pain. 

No longer having pain in your mouth is a huge benefit, of course, however, there is a drawback as well. 

The canal is the source of blood and nutrients for your tooth, and once it’s removed, your tooth loses that source of strength. A root canal also removes much of the natural tooth structure, leading to a weaker tooth. If the tooth remains unprotected for an extended period of time, it’s likely that it will eventually break or cause you some other dental issue. 

So what can we do to make sure our root-canal-treated tooth remains strong?

Restore your tooth with a dental crown

The dental crowns at our office are made of solid porcelain in the shape and color to match the teeth in your mouth. Once we’re done with creating your custom crown, it should not be noticeably different from the other teeth in your mouth. 

We mentioned in the root canal section above that if the tooth remains unprotected after a root canal, it can eventually break. This solid crown is made to act like a helmet over your existing tooth structure, to protect it from chewing and other activities in your mouth. 

What does receiving a crown look like at Monfredi Family Dental (MFD)?

There are 2 visits to receive a crown at MFD. During visit 1, Dr. Monica will prepare your existing tooth by reducing its size and shaping it to fit the crown that will come at your next visit. But before you leave your first appointment, your tooth will be fitted with a temporary crown that acts as a temporary solution for both look and protection of your tooth. 

We’ll also take impressions from your tooth at visit 1, and once we’re done, we’ll send them to our lab to have your crown made. This process takes just over 1 week to complete. 

Once your crown is made and returned to our office, we’ll have you back in to fit the crown over your tooth. We’ll make sure you’re happy with the shape, feel, and color then you’ll be able to resume eating and acting normally shortly after the second visit. 

All-in-all it’s a very straightforward procedure that we perform on a regular basis at our office. 

Does my tooth need a root canal before I get a crown?

No. While we most certainly recommend receiving a crown once your tooth has been treated with a root canal, there are other cases where a crown is the best solution when your tooth has not had a root canal. Those situations could be a chipped or broken tooth or a tooth with a large area of decay above the gumline. 

As always, if you have any questions about these procedures, or if you’d like to schedule your appointment at our office, please reach out!


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