Root Canal Therapy
Root canals are employed in order to save a tooth whose nerve has experienced decay or infection. The pulp (living tissue inside the tooth) is removed, along with nerves, bacteria and any decay and the space is filled with special medication and dental materials, which will restore the tooth to full functionality. The absence of nerves will allow your dentist to prepare that tooth with any anesthesia.
For many reasons, root canal therapy is preferable to extracting (pulling) the tooth. Extracting a tooth is more costly in the end and can lead to major problems for neighboring teeth. Root canal therapy is highly successful and lasts a lifetime, although new infections might require further treatment. Root canal therapy is indicated whenever decay has reached the pulp (living tissue inside the tooth), when infection or an abscess (pimple) has developed inside the tooth or at the root tip and when there is severe injury to the tooth caused by trauma.
Root canal therapy may be required if there is an abscess (or pimple) on the gums, when there is sensitivity to hot and cold, severe tooth pain, swelling and/or tenderness. Occasionally root canal therapy is indicated in spite of there being no symptoms at all.
A root canal procedure requires one or more visits and should be performed by an endodontist (root canal specialist). While the tooth is numb an opening is made at the top of the tooth (biting surface) and a series of root canal files are used, one at a time, to remove the pulp, nerve tissue and bacteria. Decay is also removed with special dental instrumentation. Depending on the number of roots (front teeth have a single root, but a molar can have up to three roots) and the degree of infection it may be necessary to have additional visits. If a single visit is sufficient, the tooth is thoroughly cleaned and then sealed with a permanent filling. If additional appointments are required, a temporary filling will be used instead of a permanent one. On the last visit a permanent seal will be placed as well as a filling on the top of the tooth. All teeth that are root canaled require a crown (cap) which will protect the tooth and return it to full functionality. Some sensitivity after treatment is common but it subsides as the inflammation disappears and the tooth heals.