Root canal therapy is needed when the nerve of a tooth is affected by decay or infection, has been fractured, or has sustained trauma. 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, which 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 have to be removed. Many patients believe that removing a tooth that has problems is the solution, but what is not realized is that extracting (pulling) 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, although on occasion, a tooth will have to be retreated or have further procedures due to continued infections.
Signs and symptoms for possible root canal therapy:
An abscess (or pimple) on the gums.
Sensitivity to hot and cold.
Severe toothache pain.
Sometimes no symptoms are present.
Swelling and/or tenderness.
A root canal can take between 1-3 appointments depending on the tooth in question.
While the tooth is numb, a rubber dam (protective barrier) will be placed around the tooth to keep it dry and free of saliva. An access opening is made on top of the tooth and the pulpal tissue, and bacteria are removed. Once the tooth is thoroughly cleaned, the roots and the inside cavity of the tooth will be filled and sealed with special dental materials and it will be sealed with a temporary filling.
Some teeth that have root canals will need a post, a support rod that stabilizes the restoration on top of the tooth. When a significant amount of tooth structure is missing, a post is required to be able to restore the tooth to its proper form and function.
All back teeth that have root canal treatment will also require a crown (cap) to protect the tooth and prevent it from breaking under the forces of daily function.
After treatment, your tooth may still be sensitive, but this will subside as the inflammation diminishes and the tooth has healed.