Frequently Asked Questions
A root canal is the most commonly performed endodontic procedure and involves treating problems within the soft core of the tooth, also known as the dental pulp. The dental pulp is the soft tissue found inside the tooth from the top all the way down to the end of the root, and contains nerves, blood vessels and connective tissue that provide nutrients to the tooth as it grows.
As teeth grow, the pulp provides nourishment and helps the tooth develop properly. But once the tooth is fully functioning, the nerve within it is not vital to the tooth’s ability to function and instead just serves sensory functions such as detecting the sensation of hot or cold. Therefore, the nerve and surrounding tissue can be removed from the tooth to repair and save the tooth from an infected pulp. The mature tooth will be able to survive without the pulp.
How does the pulp become damaged?
The pulp is most commonly damaged by an untreated cavity that allows bacteria to eat through the enamel of the tooth and eventually infect the pulp within it. The pulp can also be damaged by trauma to the tooth that cuts off the blood supply to the tooth and causes the pulp tissue to die. Although the pulp is no longer needed to supply fully developed teeth with nutrients, it will gradually abscess if left damaged within the tooth. Pus will build up within the root and surrounding tissue, causing pain and potentially permanent damage to the supporting bone.
Symptoms of Damaged Pulp
Patients with damaged pulp may experience:
- Severe toothache
- Prolonged sensitivity to hot or cold temperatures
- Discoloration of their tooth
- Intraoral and facial swelling
- Tenderness to touch and biting
- Draining fistula in the gum tissue
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, your dental pulp may be infected. It is important to seek prompt treatment to help relieve symptoms and prevent permanent damage.
How is a root canal performed?
A root canal is often performed in one office visit. Some teeth are more complex and require additional treatment to complete the root canal. During your office visit, after your tooth is anesthetized I will make a painless opening in the tooth and pulp chamber and remove the damaged nerve tissue. The canals of the tooth are then cleaned, shaped and sterilized before being obturated or filled with a special material to seal the inside of the tooth and prevent further infection from developing. A temporary filling will be placed in your tooth before you leave the office. You will be asked to return to your dentist in about two weeks to have the final restoration of your tooth placed. Your dentist will decide what type of final restoration will be best to protect your tooth and return it to full function in your mouth.
Is the root canal procedure painful?
Although many patients associate the root canal procedure with pain and discomfort, we try to perform your root canal painlessly. Local anesthesia is used to numb the affected area before any treatment is started. Nitrous Oxide analgesia is also available when needed. We take pride in showing our patients how painless the procedure is. We want you to leave our office with a smile on your face.
How successful are root canals?
Root canal is considered a highly successful treatment, with most patients experiencing complete relief from their symptoms. A crown or filling can usually help repair the appearance of the treated tooth so that you will not notice that a root canal was ever performed. The results of a root canal procedure can be permanent as long as the patient practices healthy teeth and gum habits and sees the dentist on a regular basis.
Are there any risks or complications associated with this procedure?
Although most root canal procedures are performed successfully with no complications, there is always a risk that the treated tooth will become infected again in the future. To limit the possibility of complications it is very important to return to your restorative dentist promptly and have your tooth properly restored. Waiting months to place your final restoration can increase the chance of leakage and contamination of bacteria back into the roots of your tooth.
You can reduce any risks associated with a root canal and help make the procedure as effective and painless as possible by choosing a reliable and experienced endodontist to perform your procedure.