Root Canal Treatments

Root canal treatments are quite common. They save an estimated 24 million teeth each year in the United States.

What Is a Root Canal?

A root canal or endodontic treatment is a procedure in which the diseased nerve (also called the pulp ) of a heavily decayed or damaged tooth is removed and the central pulp space of the tooth is filled and sealed with gutta percha (an inert filling material).

Decay is the number one cause of root canal therapy. Tooth decay is the active process of tooth destruction caused by the interaction between teeth, bacteria and food. The decay works its way through the outer surface of the tooth to the inner surface and the nerve starts to die.

The decay can cause an infection or an abscessed tooth. An abscess is a pus-filled pocket that forms at the end of the roots of a tooth. Some signs of an infected tooth are heat and cold sensitivity, swelling and pain or a bad taste in your mouth.

Other causes of nerve damage are grinding or clenching teeth which can cause dental fillings to chip or crack. Repeated dental work and large restorations can cause inflammation and pressure inside the nerve canal. If the pressure from the swelling inside the nerve is great enough, the flow of blood and oxygen to the nerve is interrupted and infection sets in.

To determine whether your tooth needs root canal treatment, your dentist will place hot or cold substances against the tooth, feel surrounding tissues and gently tap on the tooth. X- rays will also be taken.

The goal of root canal treatment is to save the tooth by removing the infected or damaged pulp, treating any infection and then filling the empty canals with an inert material.

Ignoring a tooth that becomes infected and requires a root canal treatment can have harmful consequences. Not only can the tooth be lost, but the infection could spread.

On the average most root canal treatment visits will be completed in one or two appointments. The dentist removes the inflamed or infected pulp, carefully cleans and shapes the inside of the canal (a channel inside the root), then fills and seals the space. Advil is commonly recommended to take care of any residual inflammation that might be present at the end of the root of the tooth.  If the infection is severe enough , an antibiotic may also be prescribed.

Once root canal therapy is completed, you’ll need to return to the dentist one to two weeks later. The missing tooth structure will be replaced with a crown or other restoration  to protect and restore it to full function.

Good oral hygiene, healthy diet and regular dental checkups with your dentist are essential to your overall well being.

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