Root Canal Treatment

Root Canal Treatment

Natural teeth are the best teeth!

Dentists believe that our natural teeth are the best teeth. This is why they are doing their best to ensure that you don’t lose any. A successful root canal treatment allows you to keep the tooth instead of having it extracted.

By keeping your natural teeth, you prevent other teeth from losing their alignment and cause jaw problems or gum disease. By saving them, you avoid having to replace them by a bridge or a dental implant.

What is a root canal treatment?

Teeth are composed of three hard layers:

  • Enamel
  • Dentin
  • Cement

The space within these layers is called the canal. It is filled with tissue: the dental pulp. This is a soft tissue that contains nerves and blood vessels allowing the tooth to grow. Once the tooth has completed its growth, it can survive without the pulp. If the pulp becomes infected, it should be removed. The treatment is called root canal treatment or endodontic treatment.

When is a root canal needed?

The dental pulp can be damaged by a crack in the enamel, a deep cavity or an accident. Bacteria can infiltrate the tooth and thus infect the pulp, which can cause pain or inflammation. However, sometimes the pulp can become infected or die without pain.

Your dentist may notice changes:

  • In the color of the tooth
  • In the appearance of the gums
  • In the bone or root of the tooth, thanks to the signs seen on radiographs

Sometimes, if the tooth is badly damaged, your dentist may conclude that the pulp of the tooth might not survive.

In all cases, root canal treatment can reduce, even prevent the appearance of symptoms and save the tooth.

Root canal treatment procedure

  1. During the treatment, a member of the dental team will place a rubber dam around the tooth to protect it against bacteria that live in the saliva.
  2. Your dentist may carry out a local anesthesia if there is a risk of pain.
  3. Your dentist makes a small opening in the tooth to access the canal and the damaged pulp.
  4. He or she removes the pulp, cleans and expands the canal with precision instruments.
  5. The dentist then fills and seals the canal with a material that looks like rubber (called gutta-percha). An instrument with a pre-set temperature is used to melt the rubber, fill and seal the canal space.
  6. Finally, the dentist closes the opening of the tooth with temporary or permanent sealing material.

Special areas for consideration

A root canal treatment may take one or several visits, depending on the complexity of the anatomy of the canal and the magnitude of the damage to the pulp.

Sometimes, if the infection has spread from the tooth to the bone – causing an abscess – the infection should be drained until the canal is sealed.

Your tooth can remain sensitive 1 to 2 weeks after treatment. Intense pain and inflammation are rarely experienced. If this is the case, you must call your dentist as soon as possible.

To keep the look and function of a natural tooth as much as possible, your tooth must be restored using a filling or a crown.

The restoration type will depend on the strength of what remains of the treated tooth. A posterior tooth will probably receive a crown because more pressure is exerted on these teeth when you chew. If too much of the natural tooth is missing, your dentist may use a dental post to hold the crown in place. A discoloured tooth can be either bleached or covered with a crown or a veneer.

Second treatment and root surgery

Although root canal treatments are successful in most cases, a second treatment is sometimes necessary. The filling material is removed and the canal cleaned again, prepared and sealed.

Your dentist may resort to surgery if conventional root canal treatment cannot be done or has not been successful. Surgery is used to:

  • Check the end of the canal to ensure that there are no cracks (or fractures).
  • Remove parts of the canal that could not be cleaned with conventional treatment.
  • Eliminate an infection that has not healed after conventional treatment.
  • Learning how to provide root canal treatments is part of every dentist’s education. On the other hand, some complex cases of surgery or treatment may require your dentist to refer you to an endodontist.

Most of the time, a tooth treated by an endodontist can be saved. But when all attempts fail, the tooth has to be extracted.

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