Despite what you may have heard or read online, the goal of a root canal isn't to cause you immense pain. Instead, the goal of the procedure is to save a tooth that is severely infected. As the National Institutes of Health puts it, a dentist performs the procedure to remove bacteria and dying or dead tissue from inside the tooth.
Modern techniques and technology have helped root canals evolve into relatively comfortable treatments that often require no more than one or two trips to the dentist or endodontist.
When Is Treatment Needed?
Usually, root canals are recommended or needed when there is an infection deep within the tooth. The pulp inside the tooth can become infected with bacteria because of an injury or because of a severe, untreated cavity. Without treatment, the infection can become severe enough that the tooth has to be removed. If your dentist has recommended the treatment, here is a step-by-step guide of what you can expect during and after the procedure.
How a Root Canal is Performed: Step by Step
As the American Association of Endodontists points out, a root canal is essentially a four-step process. Treatment is usually performed over two office visits.
1. Using a needle, the dentist administers local anesthesia to numb the tooth. It's common to feel a bit of a pinch in the area when the needle goes in. After the tooth is numb, the endodontist might place a dental dam, a small sheet of rubber that isolates the tooth to keep it clean and dry during the procedure.
2. Your dentist will then use very small tools, such as a small drill, to access the inside of the tooth by creating an opening in the top portion of the tooth. Next, the dentist will use small files to clear away the damaged and diseased pulp from the inside of the tooth. He or she will also use the files to shape the inner chamber of the tooth and root and might irrigate the chamber with water to wash away any remaining pulp. Your dentist might also put an antimicrobial solution in the chamber to kill any remaining bacteria and reduce the risk for further infection.
3. Once the chamber is thoroughly cleaned and dried, the endodontist will fill it. A rubber-like material called gutta percha is often used. Your dentist will close the opening in your tooth with a temporary filling while you wait for the permanent crown.
4. After a few weeks, your dentist will finish the treatment by placing a permanent crown or a similar type of restoration on the top of the tooth. Depending on the condition of your natural tooth, the dentist may need to place a small supporting post inside of the root chamber, to make the crown or restoration more stable.
After the Procedure
Taking good care of your teeth and gums is a must after a root canal. You might need to schedule an additional visit with your dentist to X-ray the treated tooth and to make sure that all signs of infection are gone, in addition to twice-yearly dental cleanings and exams. It's important to keep up a good oral care routine at home, including brushing twice a day with a toothpaste that fights germs for 12 hours. With care and attention, a tooth treated with a root canal can stay healthy for the rest of your life.
Tips for Care After a ROOT CANAL
A treated and restored tooth can last a lifetime with proper care. Root canals have a high success rate. Here are a few ways to take care of your teeth after a root canal:
•Practice good oral hygiene – brush teeth twice a day, and floss at least once. Taking care of your teeth can help prevent future problems.
•Visit the dentist regularly – have cleanings and examinations done by dentists and hygienists.
•Avoid chewing on hard foods – chewing on hard foods such as ice can cause teeth to break, and can harm root canals.
What are the alternatives to a root canal treatment?
•Remove the tooth – Removing the tooth will leave a gap that may need to be replaced by an artificial tooth.
•Leave the tooth untreated – If left untreated an infection may occur and can spread to the jaw. Pus can build up and cause pain. Cysts may also develop and need further treatment.
Are there risks involved in a root canal treatment?
Like any medical procedure, a root canal treatment poses some risk and, on rare occasions, there may be complications. These complications may result in a tooth needing additional treatment, referral to a specialist or may result in the tooth needing to be removed.
At Esthetic Smile Dental we are all about making sure you get the best dental care possible. Our highly-skilled team of dentists, hygienists, assistants, and office staff are here to make you feel comfortable! We want you to enjoy visiting us just as much as we enjoy seeing you!