Root canals are often the treatment of choice in order to save a tooth that otherwise would die and have to be removed. Many patients believe that removing a problem tooth is the solution, however extracting (pulling) a tooth will ultimately be more costly and could cause significant problems for adjacent teeth.
Root canal therapy is needed when the nerve of a tooth is affected by decay or infection. 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 that restore the tooth to its full function.
Root canal treatment is highly successful and usually lasts a lifetime, although on occasion, a tooth will have to be retreated due to new infections.
How to tell if you need root canal therapy
- Severe toothache pain
- An abscess (or pimple) on the gums
- Sensitivity to hot and cold
- Swelling and/or tenderness
- Sometimes no symptoms are present
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
- Injury or trauma to the tooth
What does root canal therapy involve?
A root canal procedure requires one or more appointments. After your dentist numbs the tooth, a rubber dam is placed around the tooth to keep it dry and free of saliva.
An opening is made at the top of the tooth and a series of root canal files are inserted into the opening – one at a time – to clear the tooth of pulp, nerve tissue and bacteria. If tooth decay is present, it will also be removed.
Once the tooth is thoroughly cleaned, the inside cavity of the tooth will be filled and sealed with special dental materials. A filling will be placed to cover the opening on top of the tooth. Additionally, all teeth that have root canal therapy should have a crown (cap) placed. The crown will protect the tooth and prevent it from breaking, and also restore it to its full function.
After treatment, your tooth may still be sensitive. But that will subside as the inflammation diminishes and the tooth heals.