What is root canal treatment?

Root canal therapy is treatment used to repair and save a tooth that has been infected due to a deep cavity or cracked tooth. The treatment involves removing the pulp and the nerves of the tooth, and cleaning the infected area. A tooth’s pulp and nerve is not important to a tooth’s health and function after the tooth has fully emerged from the gums. If the treatment is not performed, pus builds up at the root tip and the infection of the pulp can spread to the surrounding bone. This results in pain and swelling, and your tooth would likely have to be removed.

Do I need a root canal?

There are many symptoms that are commonly seen when a tooth is in need of root canal treatment. While at times a tooth may be completely asymptomatic and only diagnosed based on radiographic findings, the most frequently reported symptoms are as follows:

  • Severe tooth pain while chewing
  • Your tooth pain wakes you up at night
  • Teeth that are highly sensitive to hot or cold, with the sensitivity lingering for some time
  • Discoloration or darkening of the tooth
  • Swollen gums in the area of the infected tooth

What does the treatment involve?

First, an opening is made through the crown of the tooth into the pulp chamber. Once the pulp is removed, the root canal is thoroughly cleaned with instruments and irrigation solutions that disinfect the canal space and prepare the area for sealing. The canal is thoroughly dried and filled with a sealant material and rubberized filler. These materials create a seal inside the canal space and induce the bone to begin a repair process. The opening in the crown of the tooth is then closed with a composite filling material and a lab-fabricated dental crown is typically placed over the tooth for added strength and protection.

If the tooth is severely infected, the dentist may decide to complete the root canal treatment in multiple visits. In this case, a temporary filling is placed to protect the tooth. When you return, the dentist will remove the temporary filling, re-clean the root canal and pulp chamber, seal them, and place a permanent filling and/or crown over the tooth.

Root canal treatment has a high rate of success and many teeth undergoing the procedure can be saved to last a lifetime. Additionally, the crown or filling that is placed at completion of the procedure makes it hard to notice by others that you had the treatment.