What is a Root Canal Treatment?
Simply put, the endodontic treatment also known as a root canal or RCT is a dental procedure that eliminates bacteria and infection from the inside of the tooth. This is done to eliminate any pain or discomfort and preserve the natural tooth.
Why Do You Need a Root Canal Procedure?
A natural tooth consists of a hard, outer shell comprised of dentin, enamel and cementum and an inner anatomical space called the pulp chamber and (root) canals that contain soft tissue, called the pulp. The pulp tissue contains blood vessels and nerves. When the pulp tissue and the nerve inside the tooth gets damaged, inflamed or infected because or decay or injury, a root canal procedure can save the tooth and can help restore it to natural function.
Most common symptoms of a tooth infection include: pain and throbbing, particularly to pressure and chewing; pain that is spontaneous, and typically worsens at night and keeps you up at night; pain that is lingering and stays long after the tooth has been provoked; localized or diffused swelling and enlarged lymph nodes, etc.
But infected teeth are not always painful or symptomatic. Many teeth that have had a chronic and long-standing infection can be quiet for years. These infections can be an “accidental” finding during a regular checkup appointment. Catching potential oral health problems like this is one of the reasons xrays are taken at your routine checkup exams – it could be a difference between saving the natural tooth and losing it.
Root canal treatments are highly successful and, in most cases, can last a lifetime, though in some cases depending on the specific situation a tooth may need to be retreated due to new infections.
What is Involved in a Root Canal Therapy?
The restorability of a tooth needs to be evaluated before an endodontic treatment is initiated. This is because teeth that need a root canal treatment are usually extensively broken down and structurally weak.
Local anesthetic is used to numb the area. For teeth that are extensively and acutely infected, it may take more anesthetic to get the “hot” tooth comfortable.
Once the tooth is numb an opening is created in the tooth to access and remove the infected or inflamed pulp tissue. A barrier, called a rubber dam will be placed on the tooth so it can be cleaned and disinfected, and once the length of the roots is confirmed, the cleaned and dried canals will be filled and sealed.
Checkup xrays are taken during and after the completion of a root canal procedure. An oral antibiotic regimen may be prescribed as needed. During this appointment the tooth is restored with a temporary filling or a temporary crown.
A usual treatment protocol for teeth that have undergone endodontic treatment, especially teeth in the posterior of the mouth, like molars and premolars, is to place post and cores and crowns to prevent the weakened and now brittle tooth from breaking down. Once these procedures are complete the tooth is saved and restored to its natural function.
Is Root Canal Painful?
Since this treatment is done after local anesthesia is administered, it is no more painful than a regular dental procedure such as a dental crown preparation. The newly treated tooth can, however, be sore for few days and have mild discomfort that responds well to an over-the-counter pain killer such as Advil or Tylenol.
Are Root Canals Safe?
Root canal treatments are completely safe for most of patients. They have a long track record of successfully treating and saving teeth, thus improving oral and general health. With advancements in dental science, procedural techniques and materials, endodontic treatments are becoming safer and more successful than ever. Today, there is no scientific evidence that links root canal treated teeth and serious health issues.