A root canal is a fairly common treatment for inflammations or infections of the pulp in the tooth. This pulp in the center of the tooth is what contains the nerve endings, blood vessels and connective tissues of the tooth. The pulp sits in the pulp chamber in the center of the tooth, but from here it also extends downward through the root of the tooth where it connects into the surrounding bone.
Conditions That Addressed by a Root Canal
A root canal treatment may be recommended by your dental expert for a number of reasons:
Toothaches –– toothaches caused by infections and inflammations in the dental pulp present very specific symptoms, like sensitivity to hot and cold. In these cases, a root canal may be the best solution.
Dental Abscess –– when the dental pulp dies and becomes infected it can create an abscess that can spread to the bone and in very rare cause death. Today antibiotics protect from the worst infections, but a root canal will be needed to clear out dead tissue.
Deep Cavities –– If a cavity has reached the point that it has infected the sensitive tissues within the tooth, a root canal will be needed to eliminate the infection and relieve pain.
Traumas and Fractures –– If a tooth has become impacted in such a way that the pulp or nerves have been affected, infections and inflammations can ensue. Getting immediate dental assistance is important in these cases.
The Root Canal in a Step by Step Process
A root canal is typically performed within two separate office visits and in a four-step process, as follows:
Because the tooth must be drilled it must first be anesthetized and the dentist will administer a small injection of a local numbing agent. This won’t hurt more than a small pinch in the area. After the anesthesia has kicked in your dentist will apply a dental dam that will help keep the operations clean and dry for the procedure.
2. Accessing and Cleaning the Pulp Chamber
The dentist has an assortment of very small tools with which he/she will perform this procedure. First, a drill will create a small hole in the tough enamel coating and provide entrance to the pulp chamber and canal below. Here the dentist will use an assortment of files and other implements to clear out the infected pulp from within the tooth. These files may also be applied to reshaping the interior of the tooth.
The dentist may apply a stream of water to wash out any remaining bits of dead or decaying pulp and wash the area with antibiotics to ensure no further infections occur. Once the inner chamber has been properly cleaned and cleared out, it must be filled.
3. Temporary Filling
The dentist will use a material called gutta percha to fill in the now-empty chamber within the tooth. Once the tooth is filled with this rubber-like substance the small hole will be filled in and a temporary cap installed until your proper crowns can be installed. After this, the procedure will rest until your dentist calls you back.
4. Crowns and Restoration
Your tooth can’t use the temporary filling and cap forever and in a couple of weeks, your dentist will call you back to for more permanent solutions. This will typically be in the form of a crown or some other type of restoration work. Depending on the conditions of your tooth and its structural integrity, some additional structures may be applied to support this restoration. Once the foundation is more stable the crown will be more secure.
After the Root Canal Procedure
It will be important to continue taking good care of your teeth and oral conditions in the wake of a root canal. Your dentist may suggest you return within a few weeks to have X-rays performed to see if the infection has truly been eliminated. Furthermore, it will be imperative to keep up with twice yearly dental visits.
Day to day cleanliness and hygiene will be equally important in keeping away infections and reducing the potential of this happening again. Brushing three times a day will be a cornerstone of proper cleanliness. Make sure you are using a toothpaste that provides a full 12 hours of protection and supporting this with regular flossing.