Root Canal

What is a Root Canal?

Xray of an infected root canalA root canal procedure, also known as an endodontic treatment, is a dental procedure intended to repair a severely decayed or infected tooth. The name “root canal” refers to the actual canals in the tooth that extend down through the blood vessels and nerve-containing roots of the tooth. The pulp is the core area of the tooth composed of blood vessels and nerves. The pulp is the centermost layer of the tooth that is surrounded by the dentin.

Endodontic treatment is necessary when the decay or infection is so advanced that it has made its way into the pulp of the tooth where it may painfully damage nerves or enter the bloodstream. The decay or infection may have been a result of a cracked tooth, intense cavity, adverse effects of dental procedures, or trauma.

What are the signs you need a root canal?

Root canal symptoms can include, but are limited to, the following:

  • Severe toothache pain
  • Prolonged sensitivity to hot and cold temperatures
  • Tooth discoloration
  • Gum swelling and tenderness around the problem tooth
  • Gum abscess

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Root Canal Procedure

Root canal procedure with 6 steps in a diagramA dentist will begin the same way most dental procedures do, by taking teeth x-rays and applying a local anesthetic. The dental professional will then place a rubber dam around the tooth of focus to prevent saliva from seeping and also prevent other materials from falling out. They will then make their way into the center of the tooth using dental instruments such as a drill. Next, root canal files are used to extract the pulp material and clean out the infection. Water or another solution is applied to wash out any debris.

Once the tooth is thoroughly cleaned, the dentist may insert some medication to kill off any remnants of the infection or bacteria. Some dentists permanently fill the tooth the same day of the cleaning, but most will temporarily fill the tooth (allowing the medicine to purify the hole) and schedule a follow-up appointment to fill the tooth permanently. The permanent filling is comprised of a rubber-like material called gutta percha. A rod may also be implanted into the tooth canals to provide stability to the tooth. To seal the artificially-filled tooth, a crown or another restoration material must be placed on the tooth. Once the repaired tooth is capped, you are free to go! For more information see Colgate's page.

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