Each year, millions of teeth are treated and saved from disease and damage through the process of a root canal treatment. This is a very common endodontic treatment that dentists prescribe all the time, and most have extensive experience performing.
Root canal treatment is one of the most efficient ways to make teeth healthy and to relieve pain. While it is still a serious procedure, many people undergo this treatment every day.
Do you have acute or severe pain? On the first visit, we often treat the symptom and relieve your pain.
Here are some of the facts you should know about root canals:
What is a root canal?
Root Canal Treatment (RCT), also known as endodontic treatment, describes procedures that treat the nerve of a tooth. Keep in mind that all tooth ‘roots’ have at least one canal, and sometimes more than that.
Root canals are typically performed by specialized dentists, called ‘endodontists,’ who are trained specifically to perform root canal treatments.
Inside teeth and surrounding teeth, there is a soft tissue called ‘pulp.’ This tissue contains blood vessels, nerves, and connective tissue. These chambers can become infected with bacteria and a root canal removes that bacteria.
When someone has a root canal, the dental pulp is removed and the chambers of the teeth are filled and then sealed to guard against any future bacterial infections. Root canals work similarly to routine fillings. This treatment is also very effective in preserving the natural tooth to avoid dental implants. Root canals also help with:
- Easier chewing
- Better natural appearance
- Normal biting force
- Protection of other teeth
When does someone need a root canal?
When a hole in the tooth has gotten to the point where the bacteria spreads to the dental pulp then a root canal is required. When left untreated, the infected dental pulp can start to negatively affect the jawbone, cause pain, and even lead to an abscess. Here are some of the common causes of needing a root canal:
- When pulp becomes infected from deep decay
- Repeated dental procedures and exposure
- Faulty crown
- A crack or chip in the tooth
Additionally, here are some of the signs and root canal symptoms that indicate you may need a root canal:
- Sensitivity to hot and cold sensations
- Intense pain from chewing and biting
- A chipped or cracked tooth
- Swollen and tender gums
- Darkening of gums or visible decay
- Pimples and inflammation on the gums
Root canal treatment procedure steps
To get a more detailed view of what the root canal treatment is like, here are the steps from beginning to end:
The dentist administers local anesthesia via injection to numb the tooth and surrounding gum tissue. In some instances, the dentist will place a ‘dental dam’ which is a thin sheet of rubber over the affected tooth to keep the area clean and dry.
Tools are used to drill a hole in the tooth so there is an opening at the top. The infected and/or dead pulp is cleaned out using special tools and the dentist might also put an antimicrobial solution in the chamber and canal to clear out any remaining bacteria.
When the chamber and canal is completely cleaned and dried, it is then ready to be filled. The filling is made of a material similar to rubber called “gutta-percha.” The tooth is then given a temporary filling while a permanent crown or other filling is made.
The dentist might give specific instructions on how to care for the tooth post-root canal treatment. Make sure to follow the steps they give precisely. You might also be prescribed antibacterial medication to eliminate any further possibility of infection.
Root canal FAQ
Here are some frequently asked questions in regard to root canals:
The price of a root canal treatment will vary based on how complicated the tooth and the infected area is. However, most should be fully covered by insurance.
You will likely still have numbness in your mouth for a few hours once the root canal treatment is complete. It is advised that patients not eat anything until the numbness goes away, but other than that it is normally fine to go back and resume school or work after.
Because patients are given anesthesia, the root canal treatment shouldn’t be too painful, although, there will likely be some mild discomfort for a couple of days following the procedure.
Sometimes when a root canal is not able to fully heal, it can become infected which warrants a return trip to the dentist. Signs of this include extended pain or discomfort, discharge, swollen and warm tissue, or a bad taste in your mouth.