Root Canal Therapy
Endodontics is a specialized type of dentistry that treats problems inside the tooth, such as disease, injury, or decay within the dental pulp or nerves of the tooth. These conditions are usually quite painful. The most common endodontic procedure is a root canal. Often, this procedure can save a tooth that would otherwise have to be extracted.
The nerves contained within the pulp of a tooth may be come inflamed or infected. This can happen if there is a deep cavity, an injury to the tooth, a cracked tooth, or facial trauma. If the pulp becomes damaged, an abscess can form around the tooth. This is a pus filled, swollen area that indicates that the infection has spread through the roots of the tooth.
Symptoms of an abscess may include pain, discoloration of the tooth, new sensitivity to heat or cold, or swelling in the face, neck, gums or head. If left untreated, the infection can cause bone loss in the jaw around the affected tooth.
A root canal may be performed by a general dentist or a specialist called an endodontist. If the damage is extensive, your dentist may recommend an endodontist for the procedure.
A root canal begins with x-rays so that the dentist can see the shape of root of the tooth, whether there is an abscess present, and the extent of the infection or damage. The dentist will administer a local anesthetic to ensure a comfortable procedure. The affected tooth will be isolated with a rubber dam to keep it dry during the root canal. The dentist then uses a drill to create an access hole to remove debris, bacteria, decay, and the tooth pulp. Periodically, the canals of the root of the tooth will be scrubbed and flushed with water until it is completely clean and free of any pulp or debris.
If there is an infection, the dentist may choose to insert medication into the tooth to heal it. A temporary filling is placed to keep the tooth free of debris until the infection has cleared up and the dentist is ready to finish the procedure. In some cases, the dentist will seal the tooth on the same day as the cleaning procedure.
The inside of the tooth, where the pulp was prior to the cleaning, is filled with a sealing paste and a compound called gutta percha. The access hole is repaired with a filling. If the affected tooth was damaged extensively with a large amount of decay, a big filling, or other weakness, a crown may be necessary to return the tooth to its full function.
After the procedure, any minor pain or soreness can be alleviated with ibuprofen.