A tooth that has become infected can cause severe pain and swelling. The infection can even spread through the bloodstream to other areas of the body, causing further health problems. Fortunately, an endodontic treatment, or root canal treatment, may be the answer to saving your tooth and restoring its health. You’ve probably heard of this procedure before, and you may feel anxious about it, but there’s really no need to worry. Here is what to expect with a root canal treatment.
First off, the root canal system itself is a space located inside the hard layers of a tooth. It forms a tube or canal and is filled with soft dental pulp containing nerves and blood vessels that “feed” your tooth and allow it to feel temperatures and pain. If bacteria are able to infiltrate the space, they can reach the end of the root and cause an infection at the tip of the root within the bone and/or soft tissue. Though the pulp aids in a tooth’s development, once the tooth has fully matured, the pulp generally is no longer needed. A root canal removes dead and infected tissues from within a tooth and replaces it with a filling material to prevent bacteria from entering the tooth again.
A root canal is usually performed by your general dentist, but you may be referred to a specialist (called an endodontist) if your dentist office does not do root canals or if the case is particularly complicated.
First, the tooth will be numbed using anesthetics to minimize pain and discomfort. Nervous patients may also need a sedative to help them relax. A rubber dam will be placed around the tooth being treated to protect it from bacteria found in saliva. Your dentist will then make an opening in the crown of the tooth in order to access the root canal system. The damaged pulp will be removed, and the canal will be carefully cleaned and shaped before the filling material is added. This filling material seals the tooth and keeps bacteria from re-entering. The opening made in the tooth is then restored with either a permanent filling or a dental crown (cap).
Once a tooth has undergone a root canal procedure, it still requires proper oral hygiene to avoid getting a cavity, gum disease, or getting infected again.
It should be noted that a root canal is not always the best procedure for your tooth. Be sure to discuss your options with your dentist before deciding on a root canal or alternate dental treatment.