Root Canal Treatment

What is root canal therapy?
Root canal therapy is a treatment to repair and save a badly damaged or infected tooth as an alternative to removing it and replacing it with a dental implant or partial denture. During a root canal procedure, the nerve and pulp are removed and the inside of the tooth is cleaned and sealed. This prevents the tissue surrounding the tooth from becoming infected. The term "root canal” is used to describe the natural cavity within the center of the tooth. The pulp is the soft tissue within the root canal. The tooth’s nerve lies within the root canal. A tooth’s nerve is not important to a tooth’s health and function after the tooth has emerged through the gums. The nerve’s only function is to provide the sensation of hot or cold. The absence of the nerve following root canal therapy will not affect the primary function of the tooth.

What’s involved?
 A root canal treatment can involve from one to three visits to your dentist. After delivering a local anesthetic, your dentist will make an opening through the crown of your tooth that extends into the pulp chamber. The pulp will be removed and the root canal is cleaned, enlarged, and shaped so that it can be filled. Your dentist will place a temporary filling in the crown opening to protect the tooth between visits. On your next visit, the temporary filling is removed and the pulp chamber and root canal is cleaned and dried before it can be filled. Your dentist may put medication into the pulp chamber and root canal to clear infection. A sealer paste and rubber compound is used to fill the tooth, followed by an adhesive filling that ensures that the root canal is protected from saliva. Because a tooth that requires root canal therapy typically has a large filling or extensive decay, it needs to be protected from further damage. Therefore, the final step often is to place a gold or porcelain crown over the tooth.

What should I know before undergoing root canal therapy?
For the first few days after receiving root canal therapy, the tooth may feel sensitive, particularly if there was pain or infection prior to the procedure. Your dentist may recommend over-the-counter pain medications such as ibuprofen to control the pain. Most patients will be able to return to normal activity the following day. Until the root canal procedure is completely finished with the permanent filling in place, it is best to minimize chewing on the tooth. This will help prevent breakage and recontamination. With proper care and oral hygiene, the tooth can last a lifetime.