Bacteria can enter the pulp of a tooth, causing an infection or abscess. In some cases, the only way to treat the tooth and relieve pain is to perform a root canal. Root canal treatment involves the removal of the tooth’s nerve and diseased pulp to prevent reinfection. Many people avoid root canal treatment due to a common misconception that the procedure is painful. In reality, standard root canals are no more painful than having a filling placed.
When Is a Root Canal Needed?
Root canals and other endodontic treatments are performed more than 15 million times each year, according to the East Carolina University School of Dental Medicine. This procedure is often needed when bacteria in the mouth enter the tooth pulp, typically from leaving a cavity untreated for an extended period of time. A root canal may also be necessary if a tooth becomes cracked or damaged from trauma, allowing bacteria to enter the pulp.
There are several signs that may indicate that you need a root canal, including:
- Tooth pain that doesn’t go away
- Swollen gums
- Sensitivity to hot and cold
- Swollen jaw
- Pimples on the gums
- Tooth discoloration
- Cracked or chipped tooth
- Pain when pressure is applied
- Loose tooth due to bone softening
How are Root Canals Performed?
Before starting, your dentist will likely take dental x-rays of the affected tooth to determine the extent of the damage and ensure that root canal treatment is the best option. The basic steps involved in root canal treatment include:
- Local Anesthesia
You’ll receive a local anesthetic to numb the affected tooth and the surrounding gums. Some dental practices also offer additional medications to help reduce discomfort and help you relax, such as oral sedatives, nitrous oxide, and intravenous (IV) sedation.
- Placement of Dental Dam
Once your mouth is numb, a small rubber dental dam is placed over the area to isolate the tooth and keep it dry. The dental dam also prevents debris from falling into the mouth.
- Access Hole
Dental instruments are used to create a small opening in the crown of the tooth. This opening allows access to the pulp.
- Removal of Pulp
Once an access hole is created, the blood vessels, nerves, and tissues inside the pulp of the tooth are removed. The root canals and pulp chambers are then cleaned and disinfected.
- Shaping and Filling the Canals
The root canals in the tooth are shaped and filled with a flexible dental material known as gutta-percha.
- Sealing the Tooth
The tooth is sealed using a temporary dental filling. This prevents bacteria from re-entering the tooth as the patient waits for the final restoration.
- Final Restoration
Many patients require a crown to protect the treated tooth. A custom-made crown can take about two to three weeks to make. Once it’s ready, the temporary filling is removed and the permanent crown is placed.
What Happens After a Root Canal?
After your root canal, it’s normal to experience some sensitivity in the first few days. These symptoms should gradually lessen and can usually be successfully managed with an over-the-counter or prescription pain reliever.
It’s important to remember that root canal treatment is considered safe and has a success rate of up to 98 percent. However, there is always a risk that a root canal could fail. When this happens, you may experience symptoms like pain, pus, swollen gums, sinus issues, tooth discoloration, or a pimple or boil on the gums.
This treatment can provide patients with a wide range of benefits. Treatment can help prevent the infection from spreading to other teeth. It can also ease symptoms and reduce the risk of jawbone damage. Root canal treatment is also a viable alternative to tooth extraction for patients that want to maintain their natural teeth.
If you believe that you may need root canal treatment or you would like to speak with a dentist about your treatment options, contact the dental professionals at Hancock Village Dental at 352.989.5815.