Root Canal Therapy

Root Canal

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 (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. Teeth needing root canal therapy are not always symptomatic.

Having root canal therapy on a tooth is the treatment of choice to save a tooth that otherwise would get infected, swell and lead to severe complications. Many patients believe that removing a tooth that has problems is the best solution, but extracting (pulling) a tooth will ultimately be more costly and cause significant problems for adjacent teeth. Root canal treatment is highly successful and usually lasts a lifetime, although occasionally a tooth may have to be re-treated due to new infections.

Signs and symptoms for possible root canal therapy:

Sick Tooth

• A fistula (or pimple) on the gums.
• Sensitivity to hot and cold.
• Severe toothache.
• 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 has developed inside the tooth or at the root tip.
• Injury or trauma to the tooth.
• The pulp is dying (not always symptomatic).
• Cracks in the tooth.

What does root canal therapy involve?

Root Canal Diagram

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

While the tooth is numb, a rubber dam will be placed around the tooth to keep it dry and free of saliva. An 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.

Once the tooth is thoroughly cleaned, the roots and the inside of the tooth will be filled and sealed. A filling will be placed to cover the opening on top of the tooth. After treatment your tooth may still be sensitive, but this will subside as the inflammation diminishes.

Teeth that have root canal treatment should have a crown (cap). This will protect the tooth, prevent it from breaking, and restore it to its full function.