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 decay are removed and the space is filled with a special medicated dental material. This will 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 die and need extracting. Many patients believe that removing a tooth that has problems is the solution, but what is not realized that extracting a tooth will ultimately be more costly and cause significant problems for adjacent teeth.
Root canal treatment is highly successful and usually lasts a lifetime. However, on occasion a tooth will have to be retreated due to new infections.
Signs and symptoms for possible root canal therapy:
- An abscess on the gums due to severe decay or an injury.
- Sensitivity to hot and cold.
- Spontaneous pain or throbbing while biting.
- Swelling and/or tenderness.
- Sometimes no symptoms are present.
Reasons for root canal therapy:
- Decay has reached the tooth nerve.
- Infection or abscess have developed inside the tooth or at the root tip.
- Injury or trauma to the tooth.
What does root canal treatment 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, an access opening is made on the 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. 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. The number of visits necessary to complete the root canal will depend on several factors: the number of nerves (canals) in the tooth, the infected state of the nerve and the complexity of the procedure. Usually molars are more challenging than other teeth due to the anatomy of these teeth.
At the next appointment, usually within 7-10 days, 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 should have a crown placed eventually. This will protect the tooth and prevent it from breaking, and restore the tooth to its full function.
After treatment your tooth may still be sensitive. This is usually due to an irritation of the bone surrounding the tooth and may range from a mild discomfort in the area to an occasional episode of considerable pain. This discomfort will usually maximize in approximately 48-72 hours and then subside. You will be given care instructions after each appointment. Good oral hygiene and regular dental visits will aid in the life of your root canal treatment.