Inside a tooth, under the white enamel and a hard layer called the dentin, is a soft tissue called the pulp. It contains blood vessels, nerves and connective tissue. In a fully developed tooth, the tooth can survive without the pulp because the tooth continues to be nourished by the tissues surrounding it.
Root canal therapy is needed when the nerve of a tooth is affected by decay, infection or inflammation. This can have a variety of causes: deep decay, repeated dental procedures on the tooth, faulty crowns, a crack or chip in the tooth, or trauma to the tooth (even if the tooth has no visible chips or cracks). If pulp inflammation or infection is left untreated, it can cause pain or lead to an abscess.
In order to save the tooth, the living tissue inside the tooth (the pulp), bacteria, and any decay are removed and the inside of the tooth is carefully cleaned and disinfected. The resulting space is filled with special, medicated dental materials that restore the tooth to its full function. Then the tooth is restored with a crown or filling for protection, after which the tooth continues to function like any other tooth.
Having a root canal done on a tooth is the treatment of choice to save a tooth that otherwise would die and have to be removed. And tooth extraction is usually more costly in the long run because it causes significant problems for adjacent teeth.
Root canal treatment is very similar to having a routine filling and can usually be completed in one or two appointments, depending on the condition of your tooth and your personal circumstances. You can expect a comfortable experience during and after your appointment. Root canal treatment is highly successfu.
Signs and symptoms that a root canal might be needed:
- An abscess (or pimple) on the gums.
- Sensitivity to hot and cold.
- Severe toothache pain.
- Swelling and/or tenderness.
- Injury or trauma to the tooth.
* Sometimes no symptoms are present.
What does root canal therapy involve?
A root canal procedure usually requires one or more appointments, depending on the condition of your tooth and your personal circumstances.
While the tooth is numb, a rubber dam (a sheet of rubber) may be placed around the tooth to keep it dry and free of saliva. An access opening is made on top of the tooth and very small instruments are used to clean the pulp, nerve tissue and bacteria. Any tooth decay will also be removed with special dental instruments.
If additional appointment(s) are needed, a temporary filling will cover the opening in the tooth.
The next step is to fill the space with a biocompatible material, placed with an adhesive cement to ensure complete sealing of the root canals. If the tooth lacks sufficient structure, a post may be placed inside the tooth. Once the tooth is thoroughly cleaned, a filling will be placed to cover the opening on top of the tooth.
We highly recommend most teeth that have root canal treatment have a crown (cap) placed on them to protect the teeth and prevent them from breaking.
After treatment, your tooth may still be sensitive, but this will subside as the inflammation diminishes and the tooth has healed.