Root canal treatment (endodontics) treats disorders of the nerve (also called the pulp) of the tooth. It used to be that a tooth with a diseased or infected nerve had to be removed. In 95 percent of the cases today, however, this is no longer true. We believe in saving teeth (instead of removing them). We make every effort to help you keep your natural teeth for a lifetime!
What Makes a Root Canal Necessary?
The following are the most common factors contributing to a need for root canal treatment:
- Trauma, such as a physical blow to a tooth or a constant striking of a tooth in the opposite jaw that traumatizes the tooth
- Physical irritation caused by a deep decay or a very large filling
- Severe gum disease
Regardless of the initial cause, the tooth pulp becomes irritated and infected. Bacteria grow within the tooth pulp, causing pressure and pain, sometimes accompanied by swelling of the face. Sometimes the deterioration of the pulp happens so gradually that little pain is felt. Either way, eventually the bacteria can destroy the pulp. As this happens, the bone surrounding the tooth may become infected and abscessed, which may lead to the destruction of the bone surrounding the tooth.
If a cavity forms and is allowed to go untreated for too long, it can penetrate to the root pulp where an infection can occur.
What Happens During Treatment?
If we determine through x-rays and a clinical examination that root canal treatment is necessary, we will schedule a series of appointments for you. It is important that you keep these appointments to prevent delays in treatment and healing, which can affect the outcome. It's also essential that you take all antibiotics and medications prescribed to hasten healing and reduce swelling.
When the root pulp is affected in this way, the root can become abscessed, causing swelling and pain.
- First, we want to relieve any discomfort you might be experiencing and ensure your comfort throughout the treatment. When necessary, an anesthetic is used to numb the tooth and surrounding area. The tooth may be isolated with a rubber dam, which confines the treatment area and protects the mouth from bacteria and chemical agents. An opening is made through the crown of the tooth into the pulp.
- We carefully remove the disease pulp. The root canal area inside your tooth is cleaned, enlarged and shaped. Then, depending on your individual case, the root canal and pulp chamber may be permanently filled and sealed. In some cases, we place a temporary medication in the tooth to control bacteria growth and reduce infection.
- A temporary filling is placed in the opening of the tooth until the next visit. In some cases, the tooth may be left open in order to allow the infection to drain. We will decide what is right for your case and do whatever is necessary to assure your comfort.
- At the next appointment, we sterilize the inside of the tooth to remove the bacteria. Throughout the root canal procedure, we take x-rays to ensure that all of the infected pulp is removed and that the walls inside the canal are smooth.
- To complete the process, the root canal and pulp chamber are permanently filled and sealed.
- Finally, the tooth is fully restored to chewing function.
A portion of your tooth enamel is removed to give access to the root. The diseased root pulp is then removed.
What Care Follows the Treatment?
Once the root canal treatment has been completed, you should consider the following:
- Brittlesness - a non-vital (endodontically treated) tooth is more brittle than a vital one and is more susceptible to fracture. Therefore, in most cases, we recommend that your root canal be crowned (capped) following treatment.
- Discoloration - you may notice that your endodontically treated tooth (especially a front tooth) has undergone a change in color. Though this discoloration is of no medical concern, you may be interested in having the tooth whitened. Be sure to ask us about tooth whitening if we do not decide to place a crown on the tooth.
The root is filled with a synthetic pulp material and the cavity is filled with an amalgam or a tooth-colored filling material.