A root canal is a dental procedure to fix a tooth that is severely decayed into the nerve of the tooth and cannot be filled or restored in any other way. A root canal is usually the only option to save the tooth.
Signs that a Root Canal Is Needed
Sometimes no symptoms are present. However, signs you may need a root canal include:
- Severe toothache pain upon chewing or application of pressure
- Prolonged sensitivity/pain to heat or cold temperatures
- Discoloration (a darkening) of the tooth
- Swelling and tenderness in the nearby gums
- A persistent or recurring pimple on the gums
What is involved in a root canal?
The dentist prepares the tooth by drilling an access hole. The pulp, along with bacteria, nerve tissue and related debris is removed from the tooth using root canal files. A series of these files of increasing diameter are each subsequently placed into the access hole and worked down the full length of the tooth to scrape and scrub the sides of the root canals. Water or sodium hypochlorite is used periodically to flush away the debris.
Once the tooth is thoroughly cleaned, it is sealed. The tooth may be sealed the same day it is cleaned out. Sometimes it is necessary to wait a week or two before sealing. If there is an infection, the dentist may put medication inside the tooth to clear it up. If the root canal is not completed the same day, a temporary filling is placed to keep out contaminants.
At the next appointment, a sealer paste and a rubber compound called gutta percha is placed into the tooth’s root canal. A filling is placed to cover the access hole created at the beginning of the treatment.
After a tooth has had a root canal, it can become dry and brittle and easy to break. A crown (cap) is usually recommended to restore the tooth properly. Although the cost of a root canal is extensive, the only other alternative to a root canal is the extraction of the tooth. If the tooth is removed, a bridge, partial denture or dental implant is recommended to fill in the gap.