Root canal therapy is needed when the nerve of a tooth is affected or inflamed by decay or infection. In order to save the tooth, the pulp (the living tissue inside the tooth), nerves, bacteria, and any decay are removed and the resulting space is filled with special, medicated, dental materials, which restore the tooth to its full function.
Having a root canal done on a tooth is the treatment of choice to save a tooth that otherwise would have to be removed. Many patients believe that removing a tooth that has problems is the solution to end all the problems, but what is not realized is that extracting (pulling) a tooth will ultimately be more costly and can cause significant problems for adjacent teeth.
Root canal treatment is highly successful and usually lasts for a lifetime, although occasion,ally a tooth will have to be retreated due to new infections.
Signs and symptoms for possible root canal therapy:
An abscess (or pimple) on the gums.
Severe sensitivity to hot and cold.
Sometimes just a little discomfort or no symptoms are present.
Swelling and/or tenderness.
What does root canal therapy involve?
While the tooth is numb, a rubber dam (a sheet of rubber) will be placed around the tooth to keep it dry and free of saliva. An access opening is made on top of the tooth and a series of root canal files are placed into the opening, one at a time, removing the pulp, nerve tissue, and bacteria. If tooth decay is present, it will also be removed with special dental instruments.
Once the tooth is thoroughly cleaned, it will be sealed with either a permanent filling or, if additional appointments are needed, a temporary filling will be placed.
Teeth that have had root canal tend to be more fragile than a healthy tooth. A crown (cap) is recommended in all root canal treated teeth to prevent them from fracturing. In some cases, a post is required for extra support.