A root canal is a treatment to save a badly decayed or infected tooth instead of removing it. The procedure involves removing the damaged area of the tooth, cleaning and disinfecting it and then filling and sealing it. The term root canal comes from cleaning out the canals inside a tooth’s roots. It’s a very common procedure with over 14 million root canals being performed annually.
Your teeth have a soft inner core called dental pulp. The pulp extends from the crown of the tooth to the tip of the tooth’s root in the jawbone. The pulp contains nerves, blood vessels and connective tissue. When tooth decay goes deep enough, bacteria can enter the pulp. Left untreated, the infection can cause the pulp to die, create an abscess and result in bone loss and loss of the tooth itself.
If you have serious decay that has impacted the pulp of your tooth and possibly caused an abscess, you may feel pain, have swelling around the infected tooth and it may be sensitive to hot and cold temperatures. Many people put off going to the dentist out of fear of this procedure, but most patients find that they have little, if any, pain and report that it is an immediate improvement over the pain they were feeling from the toothache.
What to expect during a root canal procedure:
X-Rays. X-rays of your teeth will show exactly where the decay is located and whether there may be an abscess involved.
Local Anesthetic. A local anesthetic will be administered to the area surrounding the affected tooth so you will feel no pain during the procedure.
Pulpectomy. Dr. Thomas will make an opening in the affected tooth so he can access the pulp. If it is a front tooth, the opening will be made in the back of the tooth. If it is a molar, the opening will be made in the crown of the tooth. Using a special dental tool the dentist will clean out the infected pulp inside the tooth and the roots.
Disinfecting. The hollowed-out space will be flushed and cleaned. If there is an abscess or a serious infection, a medicinal solution may be placed in the pulp chamber and root canals and sealed in for a few days.
Filling. After getting rid of the diseased pulp and cleaning out the pulp chamber and root canals, they are filled with gutta percha material and possibly metal posts if necessary to strengthen the structure of the tooth. The space is then sealed with dental cement. If the structure of the tooth has been seriously weakened, a crown may be placed over the tooth at a later appointment to protect it for the long term.