Root Canal Therapy

Root Canal Therapy

Repair and save a severely decayed tooth with Root Canal Therapy

What is Root Canal Therapy?

Endodontic therapy or root canal therapy is a treatment used to repair and save a tooth that is badly decayed or becomes infected. During a root canal procedure, the nerve and pulp are removed and the inside of the tooth is cleaned and sealed. “Root canal” is the term used to describe the natural cavity within the center of the tooth. The pulp or pulp chamber is the soft area within the root canal. The tooth’s nerve lies within the root canal.

A tooth’s nerve is not vitally important to a tooth’s health and function after the tooth has emerged through the gums. Its only function is sensory – to provide the sensation of hot or cold. The presence or absence of a nerve will not affect the day-to-day functioning of the tooth.

When a tooth’s nerve tissue or pulp is damaged, it breaks down and bacteria begin to multiply within the pulp chamber. The bacteria and other decayed debris can cause an infection or abscessed tooth. An abscess is a pus-filled pocket that forms at the end of the roots of the tooth. An abscess occurs when the infection spreads all the way past the ends of the roots of the tooth.

In addition to an abscess, an infection in the root canal of a tooth can cause:

  • Swelling that may spread to other areas of the face, neck, or head.
  • Bone loss around the tip of the root.
  • Drainage problems extending outward from the root. A hole can occur through the side of the tooth with drainage into the gums or through the cheek with drainage into the skin.

When do you need it?

Many things can cause pulp damage or disease and Require root canal therapy such as:

  • Bacteria entering the pulp and causing infection.
  • A blow to a tooth that ruptures blood vessels or damages a nerve.
  • Gum disease that infects the pulp.
  • A cracked or broken tooth that allows bacteria to enter the pulp.

Signs that a root canal is needed

Sometimes no symptoms are present; however, signs you may need a root canal include:

  • Severe toothache pain upon chewing or application of pressure.
  • Prolonged sensitivity / pain to heat or cold temperatures (after the hot or cold has been removed).
  • Discolouration (a darkening) of the tooth.
  • Swelling and tenderness in the nearby gums.
  • A persistent or recurring pimple on the gums.
Diagram of Root Canal Therapy Procedure
Diagram of Root Canal Therapy Procedure

Root Canal Procedure

Steps to save a tooth include:

  • Making an opening through the crown of the tooth into the root canal to gain access to the damaged pulp.
  • Removing the pulp through the opening in the crown and cleaning and disinfecting the root canal.
  • Filling and sealing the root canal with a material that prevents bacteria from reentering the tooth.
  • Restoring the tooth with a filling or crown.

Is a Root Canal painful?

Root canal procedures have the reputation of being painful. Actually, most people report that the procedure itself is no more painful than having a filling placed.

How successful are Root Canals?

Root canal treatment is highly successful; the procedure has more than a 95% success rate. Many teeth fixed with a root canal can last a lifetime. Also, because the final step of the root canal procedure is application of a restoration such as a crown or a filling, it will not be obvious to onlookers that a root canal was performed.

Expectations after a Root Canal

For the first few days following the completion of a root canal, the tooth may feel sensitive due to natural tissue inflammation, especially if there was pain or infection before the procedure. This sensitivity or discomfort usually can be controlled with over-the- counter pain medications such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) or naproxen (Aleve). Most patients can return to their normal activities the next day.

Until your root canal procedure is completely finished – that is to say, the permanent filling is in place and/or the crown, it’s wise to minimize chewing on the tooth under repair. This step will help avoid recontamination of the interior of the tooth and also may prevent a fragile tooth from breaking before the tooth can be fully restored. As far as oral health is concerned, brush and floss as you regularly would and see your dentist at normally scheduled intervals.

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