Endodontic treatment is needed when infection or damage reaches the center of a tooth. Also known as a root canal, this procedure has a reputation for being unpleasant, but most patients are surprised by how comfortable they are during the procedure. The pulp at the center of a tooth is rich with blood vessels and nerve endings, making infection of this tissue particularly painful—for this reason, prompt treatment is critical. Infection of the pulp can easily spread to surrounding tissues, forming abscesses and, in extreme cases, infecting the bloodstream.
Our goal in performing a root canal procedure is to save your natural tooth. This is the best possible outcome because whenever a tooth is extracted, bone in the jaw is reabsorbed, potentially resulting in a weakened bite, movement of remaining teeth, tooth loss, and changes to facial structures.
What Happens During a Root Canal
The first step of endodontic treatment is a thorough oral exam and imaging. Our office uses an advanced Cone Beam scanner to look for infection inside the tooth and see if it has spread to the surrounding bone. Once we’ve determined that a root canal is needed, we use a digital rotary instrument to open your tooth and then we remove all infected tissue. After the infection has been removed, we clean the tooth thoroughly to prevent reinfection and then place an antimicrobial solution into the tooth’s chamber. A rubber-like material is used to fill the center of the tooth, then a dental filling, inlay, onlay, or crown is used to close the tooth. Throughout your entire procedure, your tooth and the area surrounding it will be numb, so you will not feel any pain while we work.
If you need to have a crown placed after your root canal, we will take impressions once your endodontic treatment is complete. A temporary crown will be used to protect the tooth from damage while your permanent crown is fabricated by a dental laboratory. Once the crown is sent back to our office, you will come in for a second appointment in which the crown is permanently attached with a special dental cement.
After your root canal, you can return to work or school. Your tooth will be sensitive and sore for a few days after the procedure, but over-the-counter pain medications and cold compresses can be used to alleviate any discomfort. Avoid hard and sticky foods in the days after the procedure, until your tooth is no longer sore.
There are times when a tooth that has had a root canal becomes reinfected months or years after the initial procedure. When this occurs, endodontic retreatment is needed. During this treatment, the tooth is reopened, the filling is removed, and the inside of the tooth is carefully cleaned to remove infection. The tooth is then refilled and resealed. Endodontic retreatment is preferable to extraction and replacement with a bridge or dental implant, as it allows us to save your natural tooth.