Root canal is a treatment to repair and save a badly damaged or infected tooth instead of removing it. The term “root canal” comes from cleaning of the canals inside a tooth’s root. Decades ago, root canal treatments often were painful. With dental advances and local anesthetics, most people have little if any pain with a root canal. In fact, it’s probably more painful living with a decayed tooth
Teeth have a soft core called dental pulp. The pulp extends from the crown — the visible part of the tooth — to the tip of the tooth’s root in the jawbone. The pulp contains nerves, blood vessels and connective tissue. When a tooth is cracked or has a deep cavity, bacteria can enter the pulp. Left untreated, bacteria and decaying material can cause a serious infection or a tooth abscess, leading to pulp death, bone loss and loss of the tooth itself. Signs and symptoms may include swelling around your face and neck, a hole in your tooth, toothache or tooth pain, gum swelling, and temperature sensitivity
The root canal usually takes one appointment. First, you have dental X-rays to check the extent of damage. You also receive a local anesthetic to control pain. Decay is removed, and an opening is made through the top of the tooth to gain access to the pulp chamber. Using small dental instruments, the infected or diseased pulp is removed.
After the diseased pulp is removed, the pulp chamber and root canals are flushed and cleaned. The root canals may be reshaped and enlarged to allow better access for filling later. Before permanently filling the root canals, they should be clean of all infection and dried. Medication is sometimes put into the pulp chamber and root canal to clear any infection. If infection has spread beyond the tooth, you may need a prescription for antibiotics.
After cleaning and drying, it’s time to fill the interior of the tooth — the empty pulp chamber and root canals. A sealer paste and rubber compound called “gutta percha” is used to fill the tooth, followed by an adhesive filling to make sure the root canals are protected from saliva.
The final stage of the root canal is restoring your tooth. Because the tooth typically has a large filling or is weakened from extensive decay, it needs to be protected from future damage and returned to normal function. It is the standard of practice to place a crown to protect the integrity of the tooth which had the completed root canal treatment. Sometimes a “post” or “rod” is placed to help retain the crown to the tooth.
After your root canal is finished, your restored tooth with the new crown should work normally and look cosmetically pleasing. If you follow good dental and oral hygiene, your restored tooth could last a lifetime. The first few days after your root canal, the tooth may be sensitive. Over-the-counter pain medications can help. If pain or pressure lasts more than a few days, be sure to talk to Dr. Galkin.