Root canal, also called endodontic treatment, is a dental procedure used to treat the inside of a decayed or infected tooth to save it.
To understand how it works, it helps to know something about the structure of the tooth.
Your teeth have 2 parts, the crown, and the root (see figure below).
The crown is the part of the tooth you can see in your mouth while the root of the tooth is anchored into the jawbone to hold the tooth firmly while it is performing its job.
Your teeth have 3 layers:
- Enamel, the tough outer covering of the crown.
- Dentin, the layer under the enamel covering the nerve of the tooth.
- Pulp is the soft middle portion of the tooth that contains blood vessels and nerves.
Why Is The Procedure Needed?
Root canal treatment is needed when the pulp is damaged or when the nerve of the tooth is infected (See figure below).
The inflammation or infection can have lots of causes, including:
- Tooth injury
- Deep decay
- Repeated dental procedures on the tooth
- A crack or chip in the tooth
During this procedure, the nerve and the pulp are removed, and the interior of the tooth is cleaned and sealed.
If left untreated, pulp inflammation or infection can cause severe pain or give rise to an abscess.
Damaged nerve or pulp tissue becomes food to bacteria which begin to multiply within the pulp chamber. This condition can lead to an abscessed tooth. An abscess is a pus-filled sac that develops at the end of the tooth’s root.
An infection in the root canal can lead to:
- Swelling that can extend to other parts of the face, neck, or head.
- Bone loss surrounding the root tip.
Drainage problems expanding outward from the root. A hole in the side of the tooth can develop and the fluid draining into the gums or through the cheek into the skin.
Root Canal Treatment
The root canal procedure needs one or more hospital visits and is performed by our experienced dentists.
Your dentist will begin the procedure by taking an X-ray to study the shape of the root canals and see whether there are any signs of infection in the surrounding bone.
Anesthesia is applied to numb the area near the tooth. In fact, anesthesia is not really needed, because the nerve is dead, but your dentist will anesthetize the area to make you more relaxed and at ease.
In the next step, your dentist will position a rubber dam (a piece of rubber) around the tooth to keep the area dry and free of saliva during the procedure.
Then an access hole is drilled into the tooth. The pulp, as well as bacteria, dead nerve tissue, and other debris, is removed from the tooth. This process is achieved by using root canal files (endodontic files). A range of these files of increasing diameter are each consecutively placed into the access hole and worked down the full length of the tooth to scrape and scrub the sides of the root canals. Water or sodium hypochlorite is used regularly to flush away the debris.
After the tooth is meticulously cleaned, it will need to be sealed. A few dentists prefer to wait for a week before sealing the tooth. For example, if an infection is present, your dentist may place medication inside the tooth to get rid of the infection.
Our dentists may opt to seal the tooth the same day it is cleaned out. If the root canal treatment is not finished on the same day, a temporary filling is placed in the access hole to prevent the entry of contaminants until your next appointment.
The next step involves filling the interior of the tooth with a sealer paste and a rubber compound. A filling is also placed in the access hole to close it (See figure below).
The last step often consists of the additional restoration of the tooth. Since a tooth that requires root canal treatment is usually one which has a large filling or substantial decay or other weakness, a crown or other restoration usually needs to be placed on the tooth to protect it, prevent it from breaking and repair it to full function. Your dentist will explain the need for any added dental work with you (See figure below).
What You Can Expect After Root Canal Treatment
The procedure will relieve you of the pain. Always remember to minimize chewing on the tooth under repair until the root canal treatment is completely finished – which is, the permanent filling and a crown is in place. This approach helps avoid recontamination of the interior of the tooth and possibly preventing a fragile tooth from breaking before the tooth can be completely repaired.
Root Canal Treatment Complications
New infections will likely appear in spite of your dentist’s best efforts to clean and seal your tooth. Among the probable causes for this are:
- An undetected crack in the root of the tooth.
- A faulty or poor dental restoration that has permitted bacteria to survive the restoration and recontaminate the site.
- A breakdown of the sealing material over a period of time, letting bacteria recontaminate the site.
Take the first step and contact us through our no-cost virtual consultation. During this process, we will recommend options that will work best for you. Every client is different, so our virtual consultants and dentists tailor the procedure to match each person’s needs.