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Painless Root Canal Alternatives

But Few Dentists Are Using It
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July 18, 2003 - Nashville, Tenn. -- Painless root canal may sound like an oxymoron, but new techniques are making it a reality for many dental patients. One such technique involves avoiding the root canal altogether by sealing the exposed nerve with newly developed adhesives.

The procedure takes just one visit to the dentist and is much less expensive than a traditional root canal, but it is also controversial and not used as much as it should be, says New York dentist Michael Teitelbaum.

Teitelbaum tells WebMD that he believes 80% of people who need root canals are candidates for the alternative procedure but almost none are getting it, partly because few dentists know about it and partly because the failure rate with an earlier generation sealant was very high.

Teitelbaum spoke Friday at the annual meeting of the Academy of General Dentistry held here.

Root canals are performed when bacteria, introduced through a cavity or crack, compromise the nerves located inside the tooth. The bacteria cause an infection, which eventually kills the nerves. But root canals can be avoided, Teitelbaum says, in cases where the nerves are not yet infected.

Instead of hollowing out the tooth and removing the pulp containing the nerves as is done in a root canal, the exposed nerve area is cleaned thoroughly and sealed.

"We now have bonding technology that allows us to seal over the nerve using the same liquid plastic that contact lenses are made of," he tells WebMD. "It hardens to form a hermetic seal that coats the nerve as well as the tooth."

Although the procedure, known as direct pulp capping, has been around for many decades, the use of traditional adhesives resulted in long-term failure rates as high as 80%. Teitelbaum says he has done around 200 direct pulp caps using the newer sealant, with a success rate of 92%.

"When this fails patients usually end up having a root canal, which they would have had anyway," Teitelbaum says. "Most of my patients don't see that as a very big downside."

Oral pain specialist Keith Yount, DDS, says the procedure is just one of many new strategies now being tried to simplify the treatment of diseased teeth.

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Only 18.5% of Americans never floss. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Floss removes food trapped between the teeth and removes the film of bacteria that forms there before it turns to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Try flossing just one tooth to get started.

You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for 3 more days!

You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily, but you're well on your way to making a positive impact on your teeth and gums. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for all 7 days!

Only 50.5% of Americans floss daily, and good for you that you are one of them! Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Congratulations on your good oral health habit!

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American Dental Association, Healthy People 2010

This tool is intended only for adults 18 and older.

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