What is a root canal?
A root canal system is the space inside the hard layers of each tooth, which is made up of nerves and blood vessels. A root canal is a treatment involving the removal of infected or damaged tissue (the pulp) from within your tooth. After the dentist removes and disinfects the infection, we will fill the area within the tooth with an inert material. We access to infected nerve through the top of the tooth. A crown is strongly recommended in order to minimize chances of the tooth breaking if the tooth already has a large filling.
When does one need a root canal treatment?
When you have a deep cavity the determining factor on whether or not you require root canal treatment is if bacteria has reached the nerve. A series of tests that assess the status of the nerve within the tooth will determine if you need a root canal. This will indicate whether the nerve is simply irritated or infected. The other indication for a root canal is when the cavity is so deep that it extends into the nerve.
Symptoms of Infection
- Bite and pressure sensitivity
- Lingering or extreme hot and/or cold sensitivity
- Swelling in the area of the infected tooth
- Abscess (white pimple present on gums in front of infected tooth)
- X-ray shows bone loss around the tip of the tooth root
- Discoloration of a tooth (especially when there is a history of trauma)
- Sometimes there are no symptoms at all (which is where testing is diagnostic)
What happens during a root canal treatment?
When the dentist performs a root canal treatment, the first step is to numb the tooth and surrounding tissues with local anesthetic so that you do not feel any pain during the procedure. Once you confirm that you do not feel anything, we place a rubber dam to isolate the tooth so that we are able to perform the procedure in a clean environment and ensure that we have adequately cleaned out the tooth. Each tooth has different sizes and numbers of nerve branches so the length of time required varies between each tooth. Once we have confirmed that the tooth is clean, we will have a root filling within the tooth and a place a permanent filling on the tooth itself. In most cases we recommend having a crown on the tooth as soon as the tooth is asymptomatic.
How long is a root canal treatment?
A root canal treatment is done in either one or two visits. The first reason for a multiple visit root canal is the amount of infection present. When the infection is extensive we will recommend the use of antibiotics before we start the treatment; However, if you are in pain we will start the root canal as soon as possible. Our goal is the clean the inside of the tooth until it is dry and there are no signs of infection present. If there is still signs of infection present we will place a temporary filling and bring you back after taking a round of antibiotics and complete the remainder of the root canal at a second visit. The second reason for multiple visits for a root canal is when you have a complex case that involves calcified nerves and it takes longer to find. We have invested in a dental microscope which allows us to see your tooth under high magnification. This enables us to find those small nerves that are not visible otherwise. During the second visit, we clean the nerve space and complete the treatment.
Restoring your teeth after a root canal
Upon completion of a root canal, the dentist will seal off the nerve space, minimizing the chance of a bacterial infection. We will restore the tooth itself with a permanent filling that is typically large in size. Having a crown is ideal for structural support when teeth have had a root canal as the amount of structure that is made up of natural tooth versus filling material is not favorable long term.
What to expect after a Root Canal?
After a root canal the tooth and surrounding tissues feel normal, but can be sensitive to bite pressure if a large infection was present. We remove the origin of the infection, and your body will remove the infection from your jawbone. The amount of tenderness in the tooth and supporting tissues depends on the amount of infection at the time of the procedure. It will take time to heal. Taking an anti-inflammatory, such as Ibuprofen, will lessen the pain. If you are still feeling tender after a couple of weeks contact us so that we can find a solution.
Wondering whether or not you need a root canal? Schedule an appointment today.