A root canal is a dental procedure that is often required to save a severely damaged or infected (abscessed) tooth from having to be extracted. Root canals fall under the category of endodontics, which primarily deals with the treatment or removal of a tooth’s interior; such as roots, nerves, pulp, etc.
Although there are numerous dental services related to endodontics, root canal therapy is by far the most common. They are typically performed by general dentists who have had specialized training in this procedure, or sometimes by an endodontist.
An infected tooth or an exposed nerve can be an extremely painful situation. Many of the symptoms include throbbing or sharp pain, swelling of the gums, jaw, or cheek, discomfort while chewing, severe sensitivity to hot and cold, etc. However, sometimes there may be no symptoms. Once a tooth is injured, there is no way to permanently fix the tooth without a dentist’s intervention.
There are a number of issues that can cause a tooth to need a root canal, such as persistent decay, cracks, or severe trauma. The tooth must be clinically treated in order for the infection and symptoms to subside.
Only a highly trained dentist with special instruments can carefully remove the pulp of the tooth and replace it with a special, antimicrobial filling material.
Depending on the anatomy of the tooth being treated, it may require a second visit to the dentist in order to finish up the procedure. However, the beautiful thing about root canals is that once the procedure has been mostly completed at the initial visit, the patient generally gets instantaneous relief from the pain and discomfort.
Root canal therapy coupled with antibiotics and over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen are generally enough to get a patient’s pain to subside dramatically.
Generally, a root canal can take a dentist anywhere from about an hour to several hours depending on the number of canals and anatomy or shape of the tooth’s root system. There are also a few other conditions to that tooth which can make the root canal treatment more difficult, yielding a slightly longer appointment time.
The first step to a root canal is to get the patient numb and comfortable! A rubber dam is placed on the tooth to help keep the area clean.
The next part is to access the pulp, which contains the nerve, blood supply, and protective cells of the tooth. Special instruments are used to measure the tooth. Using hand instruments and an antimicrobial rinse, the pulp is cleaned of bacteria and debris.
The final step is then placing a special biocompatible filling into the tooth. The tooth is then ready to restore back to form and function.
After the root canal has been completed, the tooth will most likely need to be prepared for a dental crown to be delivered at a later date.
Placing a crown on the tooth will protect and restore the tooth to it’s near-natural form and function so that the patient can eat and chew without issue. More detailed information about dental crowns can be found here.
If an infected tooth is left untreated, the infection can get much worse, spreading to other parts of the mouth and body. At it’s worst, an abscess can lead to hospitalization and be life-threatening.