What is root canal therapy?
Root canal therapy is the most commonly performed endodontic treatment. An endodontist performs root canal treatment to eliminate pain and discomfort.
Why do I need a root canal?
Root canal treatment is required when nerve tissue inside the teeth degenerates. Without root canal treatment, the infection in the tooth pulp can result in an abscess, which in turn can cause damage to the jawbone. A root canal can save your tooth.
There are several reasons why a tooth may require a root canal treatment: deep decay, large fillings, fractured teeth or trauma to the teeth.
What are the symptoms or signs that a root canal is needed?
You may need a root canal if a tooth is causing you pain or if the gums adjacent to the tooth are tender and swollen. Another symptom is if the tooth appears discolored and has become extra sensitive to hot and cold. If these symptoms reveal inflamed and infected pulp inside the tooth then your dentist may recommend a root canal procedure.
What are the causes of dental pulp or nerve damage?
Dental caries (cavities), chipped teeth, cracked dental fillings and injury to the teeth can cause damage to the dental pulp. If cavities are not treated in time, the decay spreads inwards into the tooth pulp causing nerve damage. Cracked dental fillings allow saliva and harmful bacteria to reach and infect the pulp. Fractured teeth can expose the pulp. Injury to the teeth can cause pulp damage even if there are no external signs.
Why is root canal therapy necessary?
Root canals are necessary to save teeth rather than having them removed with subsequent dentistry required (bridgework or implants.)
What does the root canal procedure involve?
First, the dentist studies the x-ray of the infected tooth and administers a local anesthetic. The dentist then removes the inflamed nerve tissue. The canal is cleaned properly so that no debris or bacteria is left behind. Next, the dentist will seal off the cleaned canal. This is to prevent fluids and bacteria from entering. The canal is filled with gutta-percha and adhesive cement. Finally, a crown is placed on the sealed tooth which allows it to function normally.
Risks Associated With Root Canal Therapy
After completion of root canal therapy you might feel some discomfort for a few days. To alleviate the discomfort you can follow the dentist’s recommendation on taking an over-the-counter pain medication. In more extreme cases the dentist may prescribe an antibiotic and prescription-strength pain reliever to help reduce any remaining infection.
Following root canal therapy you should never chew directly on the repaired tooth until its final restoration has occurred or your tooth may crack. Keep in mind the longer you wait to complete the final restoration the more likely bacteria will reinfect the treated canal requring the therapy to be performed again.
In the unlikely event root canal therapy is not successful, the dentist can discuss alternative options including repeating the treatment or extracting the infected tooth.