Root Canal Therapy

Root canal therapy is indicated when the nerve inside the tooth is dead or dying. Symptoms may include temperature sensitivity, severe pain, pressure or a visible abscess developing on the gum tissue. In some cases, there may be no sensitivity or outward sign of infection, but an abscess in the bone may show up on a routine x-ray.

The treatment involves one or more visits. On the first visit anesthetic will be given and a small opening will be made in the chewing surface for back teeth, or in the back surface of a front tooth. If there is decay present it will be removed and the tooth restored with a semi-permanent or permanent material.  The pulp (blood vessels and nerves) will be removed with small special instruments called files. The larger area of nerve tissue, the pulp chamber will be cleaned out and then the files will be used to go down the inside of each root, to remove the remainder of pulp tissue. On subsequent appointments, the areas in each root will be enlarged and on the last appointment will be filled with a material that will seal off the inside of the tooth from the infection in the bone. Some discomfort may be felt over the course of treatment and on occasion an antibiotic may be given to assist in healing the infection. Depending on the situation, most times a crown will be suggested after root canal therapy to give the tooth strength.

Root canals are tiny passageways that branch off from beneath the top of the tooth, coursing their way vertically downward until they reach the tip of the root.

All teeth have between one and four root canals.

Many tooth problems involve infections that spread to the pulp, which is the inner chamber of the tooth containing blood vessels, nerves and other tissues. When the infection becomes worse, it can begin affecting the roots. A traumatic injury to a tooth can also compromise the pulp, leading to similar problems.

A diseased inner tooth brings a host of problems. Pain and sensitivity are some of the first indications of a problem, while inside, a spreading infection can cause small pockets of pus to develop, leading to an abscess.

Root canal therapy is a remarkable treatment with a very high rate of success. It involves removing the diseased tissue, halting the spread of infection, and restoring the healthy portion of the tooth. In fact, root canal therapy is designed to save a problem tooth; before the procedure was developed and gained acceptance, the only alternative for treating a diseased tooth was extraction.

What are root canals?

Root canal therapy usually entails one to three visits. During the first visit, a small hole is drilled through the top of the tooth and into the inner chamber. Diseased tissue is removed, the inner chamber cleansed and disinfected, and the tiny canals reshaped. The cleansed chamber and canals are filled with an elastic material and medication designed to prevent infection. If necessary, the drilled hole is temporarily filled until a permanent seal is made with a crown.

Most patients who have root canal experience little or no discomfort or pain, and enjoy a restored tooth that can last almost as long as its healthy original.