With the use of modern technology such as durable nickel titanium files, digital x-rays and digital length readers, the stories being told about bad root canal experiences have virtually become a thing of the past.
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, sealing off the tooth from any potential recurrent infection.
Having a root canal done on a tooth is often the treatment of choice to save a tooth that otherwise would die and have to be removed. Many patients believe that removing a tooth that has problems is the solution, but what is not often understood is that extracting (pulling) a tooth will ultimately be more costly and cause significant problems for adjacent teeth.
Root canal treatment is highly successful, although on occasion a tooth will have to be retreated due to new infections.
Signs and symptoms for possible root canal therapy:
- An abscess (or pimple) on the gums
- Sensitivity to hot and cold
- Severe toothache pain
- Swelling and/or tenderness
Reasons for root canal therapy:
- Decay has reached the pulp (the living tissue inside the tooth)
- An infection has developed inside the tooth
- An abscess has developed at the root tip
- Injury or trauma to the tooth that causes it to die
What does root canal therapy involve?
A root canal procedure requires one or more appointments and can be performed by a general dentist or an endodontist (a root canal specialist).
While the tooth is numb, an access opening is made on top of the tooth 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 a week 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 should have a crown (cap) 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 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.