Tag Archives: root canal treatment

Premium Home Teeth Whitening

I keep receiving a Groupon order for Premium Home Teeth Whitening. Is this something worth investing in? I’ve always wanted to whiten my teeth but never really talked to my dentist about it.


Dear Amy,

teeth whitening trays
teeth bleaching trays

After looking this over, I can tell you that the whitening ingredient they use is legitimate. It will whiten your teeth. That is the good news. The only real bad news is it will not be as effective as you’d hope, even though they do have a good percentage of their active ingredient.

The reason for that is the whitening trays. Pictured above are the type of teeth whitening trays you would get with your dentist. These are custom fit to your bite. This serves to protect the whitening gel, as well as your gums.

The trays that come with this kit are not fit to your bite. It’s a DIY. This means that your saliva will leak into the trays, thereby weakening the gel. It also means some of the gel will leak out. This not only means less whitening potential for your teeth, but it can put your gums at risk. There have even been cases where patients ended up needing a root canal treatment from using an over-the-counter whitening kit.

My suggestion is you simply talk to your dentist about your desire to whiten your teeth. The cost of Premium Teeth Whitening is not that much less than what your dentist would charge you. Ask him or her if they would be willing to come down on their price a little or allow you to pay out the current cost. Most dentists are happy to find ways to help their patients afford dental work. I think you’ll end up much happier with your results that way.

This blog is brought to you by Phoenix Dentist Dr. Hillary Peck.

Does My Son Really Need a Pulpotomy?

My pediatric dentist wants to schedule my son, who is only 6 years old, for a pulpotomy procedure. Is this really necessary for a baby tooth that is going to fall out anyway?


Dear Susanna,

I am glad you wrote. I never want parents to allow their child to have a procedure they don’t understand. For those who may not know, a pulpotomy is a child’s version of a root canal treatment. It is only useful if the tooth is a molar.

While most baby teeth can come out early with no serious repercussions, back molars need to stay in place until your son is around 12 years old. Otherwise, the adjacent teeth will begin to shift or tip into the empty place. Then, when his adult molars erupt, you are looking at a lot of crowding and expensive orthodontics. Every parent wants to avoid braces if at all possible.

So, if it is a back tooth, you will either want to get the pulpotomy or extract the tooth and then have a space maintainer placed to keep the area open for the adult teeth.

If it is not a back tooth, then you will not need the pulpotomy. However, it is also important that you deal with the tooth. I am assuming that he suggested this treatment because the tooth has an infection. These are considered dental emergencies so you will not want to leave it.

Infections spread. If you think about how close your child’s jaw is to his heart, lungs, and brains, you can see how these things can turn life-threatening quickly.

If your pediatric dentist was not willing to explain why he or she thought you needed one, I feel strongly you would be better served with a different dentist for your precious son. Parents are the ones responsibile for their children and they deserve to have all the information in order to make the best possible decisions for their children.

If you can’t find a great pediatric dentist in your area, there are plenty of general dentists who love to treat entire families, including their children. Each of them has done a pediatric rotation and will be qualified to provide their dental care.

This blog is brought to you by Phoenix Dentist Dr. Hillary Peck.

Do Amalgam Fillings Stain Teeth?

I have two amalgam fillings that cover about 70% of my tooth. I want to remove them and replace them with composite fillings. He said the amalgam stains teeth and they won’t look nearly as good. Is that true? Should I leave the amalgam fillings on?


Dear Meredith,

While there is some staining of teeth with amalgam fillings, they will always look better with composite fillings. Always. In addition, while amalgam fillings simply rest on the tooth, composite fillings are bonded directly to the tooth which strengthens the tooth and puts it at less of a risk for fracture.

I suspect your dentist said that to disuade you from switching. This is likely because he is uncomfortable placing composite fillings. They are placed with a completely different technique than he or she is used to placing the old amalgam fillings.

I don’t recommend you push him into doing it though. There are horror stories of patients who ended up needing a root canal treatment after a dentist placed them incorrectly. Even if it isn’t that bad, you could end up with other issues.

If you want this done right, I suggest going to a dentist who is familiar with placing them. You can do an internet search using the term mercury-free dentist. These dentists only place composite fillings and have the technique down pat.

I have one other concern I’d like to address. You mentioned your current fillings cover 70% of your tooth. In that case, your dentist really should have done a dental crown to adequately protect your tooth. This additional information puts me more in doubt of his abilities. You may want to start looking for another dentist, who can better meet your needs.

This blog is brought to you by Phoenix Dentist Dr. Hillary Peck.

Antibiotics for a Tooth Infection

I’ve had a tooth infection and went to see a dentist. He prescribed me antibiotics that I’ve been taking antibiotics for 11 days. I was fine for a while, but now it seems to have started acting up again. Do I just need to refill the prescription or do I need another visit to the dentist?


Dear Kevin,

A man holding his jaw in pain.

I’m hoping there was some miscommunication between you and your dentist. While the antibiotic is useful until the infection can be dealt with by a dentist, it does not eliminate the infection, as you have discovered. Once the antibiotic is completed, it doesn’t take long for the infection to rear its ugly head.

With a tooth infection, a dentist has to get in there and physically remove the infected pulp. This is typically done with either a root canal treatment or by extracting the whole tooth.

It is always better to save any tooth you can, so a root canal treatment would be the better choice if it is still possible.

If the Tooth Cannot be Saved

In the case that it has been too long and the tooth cannot be saved, it is important that you replace the tooth as quickly as possible. The longer that spot is left open, the more you will be dealing with the adjacent teeth shifting or tipping into that spot. This will throw off your bite leading to jaw pain, headaches, and even TMJ problems.

Ideally, you’ll want to have a dental implant for your replacement. It is the closest thing to having a natural tooth again. This will help you preserve the underlying bone. If that is not possible, there are other options such as a dental bridge or a removable partial denture.

This blog is brought to you by Phoenix Dentist Dr. Hillary Peck.

Her Dentist is Putting her in Danger

I had a root canal treatment several years ago. The area started hurting again so I went in and my dentist did an x-ray and decided I needed a re-treatment. He did it right then and gave me both Vicoden and penicillin. I was fine for a bit, but maybe that was just the Vicodin. Then the pain came back with vengeance. I called him and he said some people just take longer than others to heal and to give it another couple of weeks. I’m in so much pain I can barely breathe half the time. What do you recommend?


Dear Stacy,

Woman grabbing her jaw in pain

I’m concerned about how your dentist is handling this infection. I can’t tell for sure if you got better and then worse or just got steadily worse to where the Vicodin was no longer working for you. Either way, it is a bad sign and he is putting you in danger.

Most root canal re-treatments are only successful 1/2 to 3/4 of the time. I realy think you need to see a root canal specialist at this point. He’s not taking this seriously. At the very least, he should have switched you to a stronger antibiotic when you were not better after a few days.

When you call a specialist, let them know what is going on so they can get you in for an emergency dental appointment. If they can’t get you in right away, they should at the very least prescribe a stronger prescription for you.

I’m sorry this is happening to you.

This blog is brought to you by Phoenix Dentist Dr. Hillary Peck.

Is My Root Canal Linked to My Cancer?

Hi there,

I am in remission from a bout with cancer, and trying desperately to stay that way. I recently learned that getting root canals can be linked to cancer. A documentary I saw recommended extraction instead of saving the tooth via root canal treatment. I had a root canal about 10 years ago, and am now terrified it may cause my cancer to come back. Will  a dentist be willing to remove the tooth? Should I have opted for an extraction over a root canal back then? Honestly, I would feel better with it out at this point.

Zarya, from St. Petersburg, FL


Hi Zarya,

You probably could find a dentist to remove the tooth. However, the dentist would likely be doing it to calm your nerves, not because it is  a cancerous ticking time bomb. A general dentist can do the procedure, or you can look for a holistic dentist in your area. A holistic dentist takes your entire body’s health into consideration when recommending treatment.

The documentary you saw may have been focused more on fear-mongering than accuracy. As you probably learned,  teeth requiring root canals have bacteria present. A root canal removes the bacteria, and seals the tooth, so it cannot become filled with bacteria again. More recent studies show that patients who receive root canals are healthier, and even at a lower risk of cancers. The documentary you saw likely referenced an old, outdated study that has not been replicated, yet is still causing panic and worry.

Good oral health is linked to good heart health, so taking care of your teeth is necessary to a healthy body. Being concerned about your oral health is important to keeping your body healthy. However, you do not need to worry so much. Your past root canal did not cause your cancer, nor will it cause it to come back. Getting it extracted is up to you and your dentist.

This blog post is brought to you by Scottsdale dentist and root canal provider, Dr. Hillary Peck, of Peck Family Dentistry.


Can’t Afford to Get Infected Tooth Removed


I think I have a dental emergency. One of my teeth is throbbing with pain. I think I need a root canal, however, I cannot afford one. Should I wait to see a dentist when I can, or go see an emergency dentist immediately? It is really painful, I’m not sure how much longer I can deal with the swelling.

Mallick, from Trenton, New Jersey


Hi Mallick,

If it is swelling that much, you need immediate assistance. If you cannot go see your dentist, you will need to see someone who can do your root canal. If you cannot afford this, you will need to go see an emergency dentist.

If you do not see an emergency dentist for the infection, you run the risk of the infection spreading. An oral infection can spread to the heart or brain, and once it does, it can cause severe consequences and even death.

Also, do not take antibiotics without a treatment plan. The overuse of antibiotics can cause side effects, such as leading to treatment-resistant infections. Once the infection can no longer be treated with antibiotics, it will become more dangerous and more difficult to eradicate.

This blog post is brought to you by Phoenix emergency dentist, Dr. Hillary Peck, of Peck Family Dentistry.

The Filling Over my Root Canal Fell Out!


I had a root canal done back when I had dental insurance. Now, I don’t have insurance anymore and the filling covering the gap the root canal left behind has fallen out. Since I lack the funds to see a dentist, I’d usually let it slide, but I’m worried. There’s a metal rod that’s been exposed, and what’s worse, it’s loose – I can wiggle it with my tongue. Is there anything I can do on my own, or is seeing a dentist my only solution? I need an affordable solution.

Barney, Poughkeepsie, NY


Hi Barney,

I’m sorry to hear about your situation. Root canal treatments can fail if they are not protected from saliva in the mouth. Loosening the protective filling can cause another infection, which means another root canal is needed, or else you will lose the tooth.

I’d recommend you go see a dentist that caters to your needs. If you explain your situation, they should be able to fix this for low cost (or if you’re lucky, no cost.) There are two different solutions I would recommend: The first is quick and easy, and can be done using Cavit (a paste that comes in a tube, and hardens when exposed to moisture – such as in the mouth).

A more permanent but still affordable solution would be to create a filling around a metal post using a bonded core material. In your case, if you can not afford to come back for a crown, this filling would last for several years. Once you have dental insurance again, or are in a more-secure financial state, you can complete the next step of treatment – a new root canal topped with the porcelain crown you need.

This blog is brought to you by Phoenix affordable dentist, Dr. Hillary Peck.

Dentist “Bait and Switched” Me with Prices

I had was diagnosed with a cavity two months ago. They said it was small enough we could just watch it for now because I told them I didn’t have much money. But, a few days ago it started hurting. Because I already knew the problem I just called around to a few dentists who advertised as affordable to see what their prices were. This one dentist was significantly cheaper than the rest so I booked with him. Then, when I get there he says the decay is too extensive and he’ll have to do a crown. That is way more money than I’d planned for. I left without having the work done. Should I get a second opinion? Do you think I’m being bait and switched?


Dear Bruce,

Dollar sign hatched from an egg
Cheap does not always equal affordable.

There are a few things going on here. First, is financial. You need an affordable dentist who’s willing to work with you on payments. But, you’re making a common mistake in equating affordable with cheap. There are good dentists who find ways to be affordable but probably aren’t the cheapest. Then, there are dentists who quote cheap prices, but end up costing you more money because either their skill or the quality of their materials are sub-par.

It’s also possible, the dentist wasn’t trying to pull one over on you. The original diagnosis was a couple of months ago. That, combined with the fact that the tooth starting hurting, tells me the decay has spread. Once decay gets to a certain point a filling isn’t enough and a crown becomes necessary. If it blows up into an infection, you’ll need a root canal treatment as well.

Get a Second Opinion from Another Affordable Dentist

It’s okay to trust your gut. If you truly feel like this guy was trying to pull one over on you then you should get a second opinion. You can bring your x-rays from your previous appointment for the second dentist to examine which will save you on additional x-rays.

Remember, cheap doesn’t mean affordable. Look for dentists who offer payment plans and phased treatment options. But, check their reviews to make sure they have a good reputation.

This blog is brought to you by Drs. Kevin and Hillary Peck.

Can a Pediatric Dentist Whiten My Son’s Tooth?

I don’t know what is going on with my son’s teeth. His top two teeth are turning dark. The rest of them are okay. Can a pediatric dentist whiten them?


Dear Laura,

A child holding a teddy bear at the pediatric dentists office

If just his front teeth are turning dark and not the others, it’s not a staining issue. Is it possible your son has suffered some trauma to those teeth recently? Could he have been hit in the mouth with something?

When a tooth is turning dark it means the tooth is either dead or dying. He’ll need a root canal treatment. You didn’t mention how old he is so depending on his age a pulpotomy might be more appropriate. It’s like a root canal for children.

You’ll need to see your pediatric dentist and have his tooth evaluated. It’s important to figure out if there’s any other damage. If he still has adult teeth underneath you’ll need to make sure they aren’t damaged as well.

Teeth Whitening and Pediatrics

Professional teeth whitening only works on natural tooth structure that has been stained. It doesn’t work on dead teeth. It also won’t work on any dental work that’s been done, such as fillings or crowns.

Most children don’t need any whitening because regular brushing keeps their teeth white. It’s us old folks who’ve accumulated years of stains on their teeth from things like coffee or tea, cigarettes, staining foods, etc.

There are some medicines which can stain teeth. Tetracycline is the worst of these. In those cases, then some cosmetic work may be warranted.

I’m assuming you’re son is under the regular care of a pediatric or family dentist. Please don’t put off getting this looked at. The last thing you want is for this to turn into a dental emergency. Not only are they dangerous and can turn life-threatening, but it’s important children have positive dental experiences. We want pleasant instead of painful memories of their dental care.

This blog is brought to you by Drs. Kevin and Hillary Peck.