Root canal therapy is the process of removing inflamed or dead tissue within the tooth. During this process, the tooth is disinfected to reduce the presence of bacteria. The canal is then cleaned, dried, and filled to minimize the re-entry of bacteria.
Infection of the pulp can be caused by trauma to the tooth, deep decay, cracks, and chips, or repeated dental procedures. Symptoms of the infection can be identified as visible injury or swelling, sensitivity to temperature or pain in the tooth and gums.
If you experience any of these symptoms, your dentist will most likely recommend non-surgical treatment to eliminate the diseased pulp. This injured pulp is removed and the root canal system is thoroughly cleaned and sealed. This therapy usually involves local anesthesia and may be completed in one or more visits depending on the treatment required.
What are the signs for needing endodontic treatment?
Signs to look for include pain, prolonged sensitivity to heat or cold, tenderness to touch and chewing, discoloration of the tooth, swelling or drainage and tenderness in the lymph nodes and nearby bone or gingival tissues. However, sometimes there are no symptoms.
How does endodontic treatment save a tooth?
The endodontist removes the inflamed or infected pulp, carefully cleans and shapes the inside of the canal (a channel inside the root) and fills and seals the space. Afterwards, the patient will return to their primary dentist who will place a crown or other restoration on the tooth to protect it and restore it to full function. After restoration, the tooth functions like any other tooth!
Will I feel pain during or after the procedure?
Many endodontic procedures are performed because the patient is already experiencing pain caused by inflamed or infected pulp. With modern techniques and anesthetics, most patients report feeling completely comfortable during the procedure.
However, for the first few days after treatment, your tooth may feel sensitive, especially if there was already pain or infection before the procedure. This discomfort can be relieved with over-the-counter or prescription medications. Follow your endodontist’s instructions carefully.
Your new tooth may feel slightly different from your other teeth for some time after your endodontic treatment is complete. However, you should not experience severe pain or pressure for more than a few days.
Call your endodontist immediately if you think something is wrong.
Why would I need an endodontic procedure?
Endodontic treatment is necessary when the pulp, the soft tissue inside the root canal, becomes inflamed or infected. The inflammation or infection can be caused by a variety of issues: deep decay, repeated dental procedures on the tooth or a crack or chip in the tooth. In addition, an injury to a tooth may cause pulp damage, even if the tooth has no visible chips or cracks. If pulp inflammation or infection is left untreated, it can cause pain or lead to an abscess.
Will the tooth need any special care or additional treatment after endodontic treatment?
You should not chew or bite on the treated tooth until it has been restored by your dentist. The unrestored tooth is susceptible to fracture, so you should see your dentist as soon as possible. Otherwise, you simply need to practice good oral hygiene (brushing, flossing and regular check-ups and cleanings).
Most endodontically treated teeth last as long as other natural teeth. In a few cases, a tooth that has undergone endodontic treatment may not heal and continue to cause the patient pain. Occasionally, the tooth may become susceptible to diseases months or years after successful treatment. When this occurs, redoing the endodontic procedure can often save the tooth.
What causes an endodontically treated tooth to need additional treatment?
New trauma, deep decay or a loose, cracked or broken filling can cause new infection in your tooth. In some cases, the endodontist may discover additional narrow or curved canals that could not be treated during the initial procedure.
Can all teeth be treated endodontically?
Most teeth can be treated. Occasionally, a tooth can’t be saved because the root canals are not accessible, the root is severely fractured, the tooth doesn’t have adequate bone support or the tooth cannot be restored. However, advances in endodontics are making it possible to save teeth that would have been lost just a few years ago. When endodontic treatment is not effective, endodontic surgery may be able to save the tooth.