If you are experiencing a severely damaged or decaying tooth, or a serious tooth infection (abscess), your dentist may recommend treating it with a root canal. Root canals are used to repair and save your tooth instead of totally removing it. Although the words 'root canal' have a habit of causing pained expressions on faces and chills down people's spines, this method of treatment is incredibly helpful as saving endangered teeth.
What’s Involved in a Root Canal?
Pulp is soft tissue within your tooth that contains nerves, blood vessels, and provides nourishment that your tooth needs. It can become infected in a number of ways but especially if you have:
- Repeated dental procedures that have disturbed the pulp tissue.
- Injury to the tooth, even if there isn't a visible crack or chip.
- A cracked or fractured tooth
- A deep cavity
If left untreated, the tissues around the roof of the mouth can become irritated and infected. When this occurs, you often will experience pain and swelling and an abscess can form inside the tooth or within the bone around the end of the root of the tooth. An infection can also put you at a greater risk of losing your tooth completely because bacteria can harm and disfigure the bone that keeps your tooth connected to your jawbone.
Can I Get This Treatment Done At My Regular Dentist Office?
It's required that your dentist schedules a follow-up appointment as opposed to just a traditional general visit, or you may be referred to a second dentist that specializes in the pulp and tissues surrounding the teeth. This specialist is known as an endodontist.
What Should I Expect During This Procedure?
A root canal treatment usually consists of 1 or 2 office visits before it's completed. There is little to no pain because your dentist will use local anesthesia so you don't feel the procedure at all. Once the procedure has been completed, you should no longer feel any pain associated with the problem tooth. Before the treatment begins, your dentist will likely do the following:
- Take X-rays to see a clear view of your tooth and surrounding bone and tissues.
- Numb the area around and including your tooth so you are comfortable during treatment. The most pain patients experience during the procedure is usually during receiving the numbing shot.
- Put a thin sheet of latex rubber over your tooth to keep it dry, clean and protected from any bacteria, fungus, or viruses that are normally found in the mouth.
During treatment, your dentist will:
- First, create an opening at the top of your mouth.
- Remove the tooth’s nerve from inside the tooth and in the areas in the root, known as the root canal.
- Clean inside the tooth and each root canal. Your dentist may treat the tooth with germ-killing medicine.
- Fill the root canals with a rubber-like material to seal them against future infection.
- Place a temporary filling on the tooth to protect it until a definitive restoration like a permanent filling or crown can be placed at the earliest opportunity.
After root canal treatment:
- Your tooth and the area around it may feel sensitive or tender for a few days. You can talk with your dentist about how to relieve any discomfort you may have.
- Your dentist may prescribe antibiotics if you acquire an infection or if a current infection begins to spread. Use as directed, and follow up with your dentist if you have any problems taking it.
Your dentist will schedule a follow-up visit after the root canal treatment. At that time, your dentist will remove the temporary filling on the tooth and replace it with a regular filling or crown to protect your tooth from any further damage. A metal or plastic post may also be placed in the root canal to help ensure the filling materials remain in place. This helps support a crown if used to replace the temporary filling.
How Long Does A Root Canal Filling Last?
With proper maintenance and care, your restored tooth can last a lifetime! Make it a point to brush twice a day for two minutes with fluoride-free toothpaste, ensure you're cleaning between your teeth at least once a day and see your dentist regularly to make sure your teeth stay strong, healthy, and on the right path of oral hygiene!