Root Canal Therapy
Root canal therapy is needed when the nerve of a tooth is affected by decay or infection. In order to save the tooth, the pulp (the living tissue inside the tooth), nerves, bacteria, and any decay are removed and the resulting space is filled with special, medicated dental materials, which restore the tooth to its full function.
Once a root canal treatment is indicated it is the only way to save the tooth otherwise it would have to be extracted. Unfortunately removing the tooth will often lead to more expense if the tooth needs to be replaced.
Root canal treatment is normally successful. On occasion a tooth might become reinfected which might require retreatment by a specialist endodontist. The tooth will become more brittle as it is dead and crowning might be necessary at a later stage.
Signs and symptoms for possible root canal therapy
- An abscess (or pimple) on the gum
- Sensitivity to mainly hot and cold
- Severe toothache pain
- Swelling and/or tenderness
Reasons for root canal therapy
- Decay has reached the tooth pulp (the living tissue inside the tooth)
- Infection or abscess have developed inside the tooth or at the root tip
- Fracture of the tooth
- Injury or trauma to the tooth
What does root canal therapy involve?
A root canal procedure requires one or more appointments and can be performed by a dentist or endodontist (a root canal specialist).
While the tooth is numb, a rubber dam (a sheet of rubber) will be placed around the tooth to keep it dry and free of saliva. An access opening is made on top of the tooth and a series of root canal files are placed into the opening, one at a time, removing the pulp, nerve tissue, and bacteria. If tooth decay is present, it will also be removed with special dental instruments.
Once the tooth is thoroughly cleaned, it will be sealed with either a permanent filling or, if additional appointments are needed, a temporary filling will be placed.
At the next appointment, usually 10 days later, the roots and the inside cavity of the tooth will be filled and sealed with special dental materials. A filling will be placed to cover the opening on top of the tooth. In addition, all teeth that have root canal treatment might require a crown (cap) to be placed. This will protect the tooth and prevent it from breaking, and restore it to its full function.
After treatment, your tooth may still be sensitive, but this will subside as the inflammation diminishes and the tooth and bone has healed.
You will be given care instructions after each appointment. Good oral hygiene practices and regular dental visits will aid in the lifespan of your root canal treatment.