What is a Root Canal?
A root canal is the treatment of choice to save a tooth that otherwise would have to be removed in order to save a decaying, infected or traumatized tooth. During the procedure the pulp, bacteria, and any decay are removed and the resulting space is filled with special, medicated dental materials, which restore the tooth to its full function.
Depending on the tooth, it can typically have one to four canals, it’s rare for more to be needed and the number of canals in the tooth and curvature determines how long the procedure will take.
Diagnosing the need for a root canal is usually based on x-ray results or an examination during routine cleaning.
Common symptoms indicating a need for a root canal include:
What happens during a root canal?
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, a rubber dam will be placed around the tooth to keep it dry and free of saliva. An opening is made on top of the tooth and a series of root canal files are placed into the opening, one at a time, to clean and shape the canals of each root. Special cleansers and antimicrobial agents are used to prepare the inner surface of the root for the filling material.
Once thoroughly cleaned and shaped, the tooth is filled and sealed, usually a temporary filling is placed and you need to have a crown placed on the tooth.
After treatment, your tooth may still be sensitive, but this will subside as the inflammation diminishes and the tooth has healed. You will then 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.
Reasons for root canal therapy
- Decay has reached the tooth pulp (the living tissue inside the tooth)
- Infection or abscess have developed inside the tooth or at the root tip
- Irreversible inflammation to the pulp
- Injury or trauma to the tooth
Do root canals hurt?
A local anesthetic is usually used to numb the area before working on your tooth, so you shouldn’t experience any discomfort during the procedure. You’ll most likely have increased sensitivity for two or three days afterwards and you may experience pain when you bite down or when your tooth is exposed to heat or cold, but this is only temporary.