Root canals procedures are performed to save a tooth that has become damaged or infected due to severe decay. The pulp, which contains nerve tissue, blood vessels and connective tissue, can become damaged or infected. Root canals remove the damaged pulp tissue and restores the natural tooth’s appearance and function. Root canals are an endodontic treatment, a form of dentistry that repairs the inside components of a tooth.
What are the reasons for having a root canal performed?
Root canals are performed to repair the following dental concerns:
- Pulp tissue that has become inflamed or infected
- Nerve tissue that has become damaged
- Bone loss near the root
- The development of an abscess near the tooth’s root
- Swelling near the face, head or neck as a result of infection Root canal therapy can help to alleviate the pain and discomfort that accompany infected or damaged pulp tissue, while successfully saving the natural tooth.
What symptoms may indicate the need for a root canal?
Symptoms, which can elicit the need for a root canal, include:
- Severe toothache
- Pain when chewing
- Sensitivity to hot and/or cold food and drink
- Discoloration of the tooth
- Swollen, tender gums
- A persistent pimple on the gums
It is important to note that sometimes no symptoms are present, despite extensive damage to the pulp or nerve tissue. This is one of the reasons have regular dental checkups is essential.
What is the procedure used in performing a root canal?
A root canal can be completed in one or more office visits. Depending on the complexity of your condition, a general dentist or an endodontist will perform your root canal. X-rays will be taken to determine if the root and surrounding bone show any signs of infection. A local anesthetic is administered to numb the area surrounding your tooth. A rubber dam is inserted to keep the area dry. Using a drill, a hole is created to remove the decayed pulp and nerve tissue. The inside of your tooth is then cleaned with root canal files of different diameters. As the inside the root canal is scraped, water, sodium hypochlorite or another bacteriostatic /bactericidal solution is used to flush out debris. The next step of the procedure is sealing the tooth. Your dentist may seal your tooth the same day it is cleaned out, or you may have you come back for a second visit. If the sealing is not completed the same day, a temporary filling is used to keep the area clean and free of infection. In order to seal the tooth, a paste composed of rubber compounds called gutta-percha is applied to the root canal. The hole created on top of the tooth is repaired with a filling. In some cases, the tooth may need to be restored further with a crown or post. This form of restoration is needed for teeth that have become damaged or weakened from extensive decay and depend on a crown or post to be protected and fully functional.
What can be expected after the procedure?
Pain and discomfort may be felt, but many people find sufficient relief with over-the-counter medications such as Tylenol or Advil. If you have to go back for a second visit to have the filling and/or crown put in place, it is recommended that you avoid chewing with the tooth that received the root canal. Proper oral hygiene and regular visits to your dentist will help to keep the restored tooth healthy for a lifetime.