Root Canal Treatment
A root canal is a form of dental therapy that treats infections affecting the nerves and soft tissues of the teeth. During a root canal, the inside ‘canals’ are cleaned out and the pulp removed. It is treated with an antibiotic to kill any remaining bacteria and filled with a special dental material. Patients often lose at least some of the natural tooth during this process, but a dental crown can help restore a normal appearance and full function.
There are many reasons for getting a root canal rather than extracting a tooth altogether. The most obvious reason is to save the diseased tooth, which requires a more conservative restoration process than an extraction does. Root canals can be repaired and capped with a simple crown, whereas replacing an extracted tooth requires an abutment or dental implant. In the long term, replacing a missing tooth takes much more time and can be much more expensive.
When Does a Patient Need a Root Canal?
The teeth are composed of layers of tissues – both hard and soft. The external enamel and the dentine comprise the majority of each tooth, protecting the delicate pulp beneath. When plaque is allowed to accumulate on the surface of the teeth, bacteria can grow and proliferate, causing decay that eats away at the enamel and dentine. When decay or physical trauma exposes the live pulp tissues to bacteria, it can cause the tissues to die, resulting loss of the tooth. Patients need root canals when the inside of a tooth is infected, but the tooth is not so badly decayed that it must be extracted completely. A root canal kills infection inside the tooth and makes it possible to preserve much of the natural tooth without affecting the surrounding teeth.
Though only a dentist can tell a patient for sure if he or she requires a root canal, there are some telling signs and symptoms of a diseased tooth. Severe tooth pain is what often drives patients to the dentist, but it may be accompanied or preceded by swelling, tooth sensitivity, or gum abscesses. In some cases, there are no symptoms to indicate an infection. Instead, patients must rely on their twice-yearly exams to identify decay.
What Should I Expect During a Root Canal Treatment?
If you require a root canal, your dentist or endodontist will numb your tooth to ensure you are comfortable for the duration of the procedure. The top of the tooth will be opened, revealing its inner canals. Special instruments will be used to gently remove the pulp and nerve tissues. A thorough cleaning will follow, and a filling will be placed inside the canals to prevent future infections.
You can speak with your dentist about options for final restorations. Some patients opt for a basic cap, whereas others prefer a crown that has the look and feel of a natural tooth. Keep in mind that your teeth will be sensitive for a short period of time following your root canal, but any discomfort you experience will be minimal and should subside as the tooth heals. In most cases, root canals are successful and do not require retreatment. A small percentage may need to be treated against new infections in the future.