What is a Root Canal?
Root canal treatment is the removal of the tooth’s pulp, a small, thread-like tissue in the center of the tooth and subsequent filling of this space with an inert filling material.
Why Would You Need Root Canal Treatment?
Root canal treatment is needed for two main reasons. The first is infection. An untreated cavity is a common cause of pulp infection. The decay erodes the enamel and dentin of the tooth until it reaches the pulp. This allows bacteria to infect the pulp. Antibiotics can’t get to infections inside teeth.
The second reason for a root canal is damage to the pulp due to Trauma or a fracture or a large filling.
The goal of root canal treatment is to save the tooth by removing the infected or damaged pulp, treating any infection, and filling the empty root canals with a material called “gutta percha”.
If root canal treatment is not done, an infected tooth may have to be extracted. It is better to keep your natural teeth if you can. If a tooth is missing, neighboring teeth can drift out of line. Keeping your natural teeth also helps you to avoid other treatments, such as implants or bridges. Also, if you ignore an infected or injured tooth the infection can spread to other parts of your body.
Signs and Symptoms
- Your tooth might need a root canal if:
- It hurts when you bite down on it, touch it or push on it
- It is sensitive to heat
- It is sensitive to cold for more than a few seconds
- There is swelling near the tooth
- It is discolored (whether it hurts or not)
- It is broken
Length of Treatment
Root canal treatment can be done by our dentists one or more visits, depending on the situation. An uncomplicated root canal treatment can be completed in one visit. If you have an infection, more than one visit may be required to make sure that the infection is gone.
- Measuring the Root Canals
First, our dentists will numb the tooth with an anesthesia. Then a tiny hole is made in the top or back of your tooth to get to the pulp chamber. The diseased pulp is then removed.
Then the root canals have to be measured. We need to know how long the canals are to make sure the entire canal is cleaned. We also need to know the length to determine how much filling material is to be put in the cleaned canals.
To measure the root canals, we use X-rays or an electric device called an apex locator. For an X-ray we will place a file into the canal and then take an X-ray. An apex locator measures a root canal based on its resistance to a small electric current.
After the canals have been measured, we use special tools to clean out all of the diseased pulp. Then the canals are cleaned with disinfecting solutions.
Once the canals have been thoroughly cleaned, the roots are filled. A tapered, rubbery material called gutta-percha is inserted into each of the canals and is sealed into place with cement. Sometimes a metal or fiber rod is placed in the canal for structural support. The top of the tooth is then covered with a permanent filling.
In most cases, the tooth will need a crown. A crown will help to restore the tooth’s strength and protect it from cracking. If a crown is indicated it should be placed soon after having root canal treatment.
The pulp that was removed during root canal treatment is the part that responds to temperature. Your tooth will no longer be sensitive to hot or cold after the root canal is treated. There still are tissues and nerves around the tooth, however, so it will respond to pressure and touch and function likes a normal tooth.