What is a Root Canal?
A root canal is a dental procedure in which a decayed or infected tooth is repaired and saved. To understand the process of a root canal, we must first understand the structure of a tooth.
Beneath the white enamel of your teeth, there is a hard layer called dentin. Below the layer of dentin is soft tissue known as pulp. Blood vessels and connective tissues are contained in the pulp. The nerves of the tooth lie within the root canal, and these help us identify the temperature of food we eat. The nerve is not crucial to the function of the tooth beyond this sensory function.
Tooth Pulp and Nerve Damage
Irritation, inflammation, or infection may occur in your tooth’s nerve and pulp. These conditions may occur if there is deep decay in your teeth, repeated dental procedures on a tooth (which could weaken it), large fillings in a tooth, or a crack or chip in the tooth which could leave it vulnerable to bacteria. This may cause the tooth to become non-vital and require endodontics or a root canal treatment.
Signs You May Need a Root Canal
Knowing you need a root canal can be unsettling, – but the truth is, the root canal procedure is not as painful as the experience of a damaged tooth pulp and nerve that requires the root canal procedure. The root canal itself is a procedure to alleviate the pain caused by irritation, inflammation, or infection.
In some cases, there may be no symptoms present to indicate the need for a root canal. But, there are also many signs that indicate you need a root canal. These include: severe tooth pain when chewing or applying pressure; sensitivity to hot or cold temperatures; discoloration (darkening of the tooth); swelling or tenderness in the gums; as well as other symptoms or causes.
Procedure of the Root Canal
Your dentist will identify the need for a root canal, depending on the symptoms, causes, and diagnosis of your tooth pain. First, your dentist will take an X-ray to look at your root canals and surrounding bone. This allows your dentist to see whether there is infection present. After this, local anesthesia is administered to numb the tooth and surrounding area. To keep the area dry, a rubber dam may be placed around the tooth.
After anesthesia, your dentist will obtain access to the pulp. Your dentist will clean out the pulp, nerve tissue, and any related debris. To achieve this, your dentist uses a set of tools called root canal files, which are available in different diameters to reach different parts of your tooth. These allow your dentist to fully clean out all parts of your tooth and roots.
If you are experiencing an infection, your dentist will fill the tooth with medication to clear out the infection. The dentist may leave it this way for a few weeks to allow time for the infection to clear up. To finish the root canal a filling material will need to be placed in the roots of the tooth to stop any further infectious desease to the tooth. This is usually sealed with a material called gutta percha. A final restoration will be required and your dentist will discuss the options with you.
After the Root Canal Procedure
The treated tooth may experience some tenderness and sensitivity for a few days. Your dentist may recommend a general over-the-counter pain medication and antibiotics to treat any residual infection or discomfort. In most cases, people feel better by the following day.
It is recommended to minimize use of the tooth until the full root canal procedure is complete and a crown is placed. Patients should floss and brush their teeth regularly. If there are any complications after the procedure, contact us immediately at Pheasant Run Dental.
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