Root Canal Therapy

What is a Root Canal Therapy?

Root canal therapy involves the saving of a tooth that is decayed and otherwise would die and have to be removed. 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, which restore the tooth to its full function.

Why is it Required?

Root canal therapy is needed when the nerve of a tooth is affected by decay or infection. Many patients believe that removing a tooth that has problems is the solution, but what is not realised is that extracting (pulling) a tooth will ultimately be more costly and cause significant problems for adjacent teeth. The treatment is generally not painful or traumatic.

Root canal treatment if followed by placement of a crown is highly successful and usually lasts a lifetime, although on occasion a tooth will have to be retreated due to new infections.

Signs and symptoms for possible root canal therapy:

  • An abscess (or pimple) on the gums.
  • Sensitivity to hot and cold.
  • Severe toothache pain.
  • Sometimes no symptoms are present. 
  • Swelling and/or tenderness.
  • A sense that the tooth has grown or is suddenly in a heavy contact with the opposing tooth.
  • The tooth feels slightly loose and may have a bad taste coming from it.

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 such as a crack in the tooth.

What does root canal therapy involve?

A root canal procedure requires one or more appointments and can be performed by a dentist or endodontist (a root canal specialist).

While the tooth is numb, an access opening is made on top of the tooth and a series of root canal files are placed into the opening, one at a time, removing the pulp, nerve tissue and bacteria. If tooth decay is present, it will also be removed with special dental instruments. The pulp chamber is cleaned and disinfected and allowed to heal.

Once the tooth is thoroughly cleaned, it will be sealed with either a permanent filling or, if additional appointments are needed, a temporary filling will be placed.

At the next appointment, usually a week later, the roots and 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. In addition, all teeth that have root canal treatment should have a crown (cap) placed. This will protect the tooth, prevent it from breaking and restore it to its full function.

After the initial root canal appointment there may be some discomfort for one or two days but this will quickly subside.

You will be given care instructions after each appointment. Good oral hygiene practices and regular dental visits will aid in the life of your root canal treatment.

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