Root canal treatment is necessary when the pulp, the soft tissue inside the root canal, becomes inflamed or infected. The inflammation or infection can have a variety of causes: deep decay, repeated dental procedures on the tooth, a crack or chip in the tooth, or trauma to the tooth. If pulp inflammation or infection is left untreated, it can cause pain or lead to an abscess.
And the how’s:
At the time of the appointment, the anesthesia is administered to keep you comfortable and a barrier is used to isolate the tooth. A small hole is drilled through the top of the tooth to gain access to the nerve chamber. Small instruments are used to clean and shape the canals of the tooth. Once the canals are shaped and cleaned and free of infection, a filling material is cemented into the canals to close the space and seal the roots. A new restoration (crown or filling) is now ready to be placed to maintain a good seal for the crown of the tooth.
The procedure may be completed in one or more appointments depending of the complexity of the case, i.e. the number of canals present (the more canals, the more time needed), the curvature of the canals (the more curvature present, the slower the pace must be in order to maintain the integrity of the root.)
Will it hurt?
Many root canal procedures are performed to relieve the pain of toothaches caused by pulp inflammation or infection.
With modern techniques and anesthetics, most patients report that they are comfortable during the procedure.
For the first few days after treatment, your tooth may feel sensitive, especially if there was pain or infection before the procedure. This discomfort can be relieved with over-the-counter or prescription medications. Your tooth may continue to feel slightly different from your other teeth for some time after the root canal treatment is completed.
Occasionally, a tooth can’t be saved because the root canals are not accessible, the root is severely fractured, the tooth is not periodontally stable, or the tooth cannot be restored. However in cases where root canal treatment is a viable option, it is an easy way to save your natural tooth in a reasonable amount of time, with very little discomfort in most cases.
So perhaps a better punch-line next time would be:
“...I’d gladly have a root canal!”
-E. Carrie Ramirez, D.D.S.