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 tissue inside the tooth) and bacteria is removed and the resulting space is sterilized and filled with a special medicated material called gutta percha, which helps to restore the tooth to its full function.
Having a "root canal" done on a tooth is the treatment of choice to save a tooth that otherwise would have to be removed. Many patients believe that removing a tooth that has problems is the best solution. What may not be realized is that extracting (pulling) a tooth will ultimately be more costly to replace, and will cause significant problems for adjacent teeth as they drift towards the empty space.
Root canal therapy is a highly predictable and successful option and usually lasts a lifetime, although, on occasion, a tooth will have to be retreated due to a recurrent infection.
Signs and symptoms for possible root canal therapy:
- An abscess (or pimple) on the gums
- Lingering sensitivity to hot and cold
- Severe toothache pain
- Sometimes no symptoms are present (dead tooth)
- Swelling and/or tenderness
Reasons for root canal therapy:
- Decay has reached the tooth pulp (the living tissue inside the tooth)
- Infection or abscess has developed inside the tooth and at the root tip
- Injury or trauma to the tooth
What is involved?
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, 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, most teeth that have had root canal treatment should have a crown (cap) placed. This will protect the tooth and prevent it from breaking, and restore it to its full function. The crown will also keep the tooth sealed up, and prevent reinfection of the root canal.
After treatment, your tooth may still be sensitive, but this will subside as the inflammation diminishes and the tooth and surrounding bone has healed.
You will be given care instructions after each appointment. Good oral hygiene practices and regular dental visits will aid in the life of your root canal treatment.