“Patients sometimes come with an urban legend in mind—a preconceived notion that root canal treatment is difficult or inherently going to be painful. They’re apprehensive from the start. Part of my job is to truthfully assure them that they can relax. In fact, many patients might even nap during the procedure. When a patient is snoring in the chair, it’s the best complement I could ask for. I want people to know they are safe here.”
Dr. Kutuza is a lighthearted man with a very positive approach to his work and to life in general. You absolutely will feel better after he explains modern endodontics and how getting root canal treatment today is vastly different from the embellished horror stories you may have heard. You feel the apprehension drain away as soon as he tells you the whole point of endodontics is that your terrible toothache is going to stop hurting.
MYTHS OF ROOT CANAL TREATMENT
Here are three of the most common myths that meeting with Dr. Kutuza will bust:
1. PAIN — Root canal treatment is NOT PAINFUL. It doesn’t cause pain, it relieves it. “Patients tell us it’s easier than getting a filling,” Lana Kutuza told me when we met. Lana is office manager and Dr. Kutuza’s wife of nearly 30 years. “Modern technology and the local anesthetics we use have eliminated the discomfort of treatment from years ago. Despite what people may think, we don’t use sedation because it’s simply not needed.”
2. ILLNESS — Even though you may have heard whispered rumors that root canal treatment could cause illness—that’s absolutely not true. There’s no evidence linking root canal-treated teeth and disease. Believe it or not, such Internet misinformation is based on century-old, flawed, discredited research.
3. EXTRACTION is not always a good alternative to root canal treatment. “Saving your natural teeth is always the first goal,” Dr. Kutuza explained. “If you’re considering pulling a painful tooth, always ask your dentist if root canal treatment could save it instead. This may be the preferred course of care for several reasons, the least of which is cost—less than extraction followed by replacement of the now missing tooth with a bridge or implant.” Moreover, root canal-treated teeth will help you chew efficiently, enjoy your food more, and maintain the natural appearance of your smile. You’ll feel much better with your natural teeth. They can last you a lifetime with the proper care.
WHAT IS ROOT CANAL TREATMENT?
“As an endodontist, I usually see people once. They come to me with a toothache to get their tooth fixed and the pain stopped. What’s most satisfying about doing root canals? We get instant results—their tooth is preserved, the pain stopped. Usually in-and-out, one day visits,” Dr. Kutuza said. He only does root canals…it’s his specialty, his expertise. He has years of experience doing just that, backed by advanced education and on-going continuing education. Some patients are referred by their general dentist, but many are refereed by friends and family who want others to have similarly positive experiences.
When patients call, Lana always asks one important first question, “Are you in pain right now?” If so, she makes every effort to get you in to see the doctor that same day, even after-hours, if necessary. “Nobody deserves to suffer,” she said. “We schedule routine root canals until about 3:30 and after that we reserve for dental emergencies, which come through almost daily. A toothache is very uncomfortable, and we don’t want anyone to have to endure that.”
People needing root canal treatment can be as young as six-years-old, when permanent teeth are coming in, and any aged adults. Causes of tooth pain that might require endodontic treatment include nerve damage in your natural teeth or in a tooth covered by a crown, most often from deep decay or infection and a various other possible tooth traumas. Grinding your teeth is another common cause, one you may not even be aware of if you grind in your sleep. On-going symptoms that suggest the need for a call or a dentist visit are sensitivity to hot or cold foods and beverages, pain when biting down, lingering pain or toothache that may become constant, severe pain with time, swelling of the gums, and sensitivity to touch. Visit your dentist to find out exactly what is causing your discomfort, and don’t hesitate to follow-up with Dr. Kutuza if root canal treatment is recommended. Remember, it doesn’t hurt!
In essence, the root canal procedure removes inflamed, infected, or dead pulp inside your tooth, and this now empty canal is carefully cleaned and disinfected. Dr. Kutuza then fills and seals it with a rubber-like material called gutta-percha. Afterwards, a timely follow-up with your general dentist to have the tooth restored with a crown or filling is needed. When finished, your natural tooth will serve you well, just like any other tooth, hopefully for the rest of your life.
A SPECIAL DENTIST
“I don’t know how he does it, but Alexander’s calming voice and gentle demeanor relax his patients—they really do report that everything about their visit was very comfortable, nothing like they expected. I think it’s a little like some sort of hypnosis where he just puts them at ease,” Lana told me with a smile. “Also, he’s a very conservative dentist—that is, he won’t waste your time and money if he knows your tooth can’t be properly saved with root canal treatment and will tell you honestly if a root canal is not yet needed.”
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the practice donated boxes of candy, as well as dental hygiene products and denture adhesive, to local nursing homes in an effort to ease residents’ burden of not being able to see family. “They felt so stranded; we wanted to put a smile on their faces. We also shared PPE with local hospitals since we had enough. Our community is important to us,” Lana said.
A LITTLE FAMILY HISTORY
Dr. Kutuza and Lana were born and raised in Ukraine. Before deciding on a career in dentistry, Dr. Kutuza was a physician’s assistant in the military. “I was planning on medical school,” he told me, “but as a medic, I hung around the dental clinic a lot and liked the hands-on approach and immediate pain relief endodontics can provide patients. I had to get my dental degree twice! First in Ukraine and again in the United States at the University of Pennsylvania, before earning my Endodontic Specialty Certification at the University of Pittsburgh.” He’s very well trained, with more than double the qualifications.
“I love the business side of things; he loves the hands-on craft of what he does,” Lana shared. “We both believe in saving people’s teeth and improving lives. Our patients are remarkable, and these days we’re taking special precautions to keep everyone safe, following all the COVID rules. We’re first responders because root canal therapy is considered a true dental emergency, so we are always available. Our staff does an amazing job keeping everyone comfortable and safe.”
If you ever need root canal treatment, run, don’t walk to Dr. Kutuza’s office. You’ll be greeted by very friendly people and treated with an extra dose of kindness and compassion, along with professional experience and exceptional skill. And, guess what? Your toothache will be gone!
Alexander Kutuza, D.M.D.
935 4th Street Drive, NE, Suite 4 • Hickory, NC 28601