Root Canal Therapy
Root canals are one of the most misunderstood services that dentists provide. There is a widespread, incorrect belief that root canal treatments are painful. Not true!
In fact, you may need root canal therapy to relieve pain or toothaches. Tooth pain doesn’t happen because of root canals; it happens if you don’t get one when you really need it!
Infections inside of a tooth happen when tooth decay extends deep enough to reach the tooth pulp. If the decay-causing bacteria infect the pulp, then the pulp needs to be removed. If you do not have it removed, the infection will spread to the surrounding tissues, causing abscesses & other nasty conditions.
What Is A Root Canal?
Root canal therapy (endodontics) focuses on the inside of your tooth. Inside every tooth is a hollow space occupied by your tooth pulp, which helps teeth detect heat & cold, & is essentially what keeps a tooth “alive.” A tooth needs a root canal if your tooth pulp becomes infected or dies.
The signs & symptoms of a tooth that needs a root canal may include pain, abscesses & swelling. In many cases, there may be no obvious symptoms to you, which is why it is vital to see your dentist regularly. They are trained to spot recognize warning signs that you may not notice!
Root canal therapy involves creating a small opening in a tooth, removing the dead or infected pulp through that opening, & then resealing the tooth.
Your dentist will start by numbing your tooth & the surrounding area with local anesthesia. They’ll isolate the tooth with a rubber dam, which is a small sheet of latex designed to keep your tooth clean & free of any contamination. Using a drill, they create a small hole called an access cavity on the surface of your tooth.
The access cavity allows the dentist to remove the tooth pulp & clean the inside of the tooth with a dental file. These files look like pins, but they won’t cause any pain thanks to local anesthesia! Your dentist will periodically flush out the cavity with cleaning solution to make sure any contaminants are removed.
The cleaning & filing process widens the cavity, allowing space for the filling material that seals the root canal. Dentists use a natural rubbery substance called gutta-percha for this. After the canal is filled, you’ll get a temporary filling on top of it. This will protect your tooth from damage until you can come in for your next appointment to permanently seal the tooth. While you wait for your final restoration, you need to treat that tooth with special care & caution. Avoid using that tooth as much as possible & watch what foods you eat. If the temporary filling is damaged, the tooth can become infected again.
In most cases, a root canal procedure removes enough tooth material that a dental crown is needed to restore your tooth. Fillings can work in milder cases, but only for your front teeth. A filling cannot withstand enough pressure to hold together a molar that has undergone a root canal.
Once you have your permanent restoration, you should take care of your tooth just like all your others. Though a crown or filling will provide your tooth with superior strength & structural support, rigorous oral hygiene is still necessary to ensure a root canal’s success. Proper home care is the difference between a future full of root canals & a lifetime of healthy teeth.