Saturday, September 24, 2022




Years ago, the only solution to diseased or damaged teeth was to remove them. Now, modern dentistry makes it possible to save the damaged teeth. One of the techniques used is endodontic treatment, more commonly known as root canal therapy.

Why is root canal therapy necessary?

Root canal therapy can save a tooth whose pulp is diseased or damaged. The pulp is the internal part of the tooth that contains the nerves and blood supply. Pulp problems occur when the crown of the tooth is decayed or injured so that the pulp is exposed. The pulp becomes inflamed, and it becomes infected when bacteria enter the pulp. The infection can then spread throughout the pulp into the root canal. If it gets to the tip of the root, it can invade the bone. When this happens, an abscess (a pocket of pus) may form. Left untreated, the infection can cause bone loss and tooth loss. The purpose of a root canal is to stop the infection by removing dead or dying tissue, so that the tooth can be saved.

How is treatment planned?

Your dentist will examine your gums and teeth, and look for signs of infection. The dentist may tap on your teeth with an instrument (percussion test), or test your bite. You may also have x-rays, which reveal the structure of the teeth and surrounding bone. Other tests that may be done include an electronic pulp test, thermal test, or fiberoptic test. These show the condition of the pulp and the extent of its damage.

After the evaluation, your dentist will make recommendations as to the next steps in treatment.

What does root canal therapy involve?

Treatment usually requires more than one office visit. The first step involves removing the pulp tissue. This is done through a small opening made in the crown of the tooth. If you’ve been experiencing severe pain, pulp removal usually provides immediate relief. Once the pulp chamber and root canals have been cleaned and disinfected, medicine is placed in the tooth and it is temporarily sealed. If severe infection is present, your dentist may leave the tooth open for several days to promote drainage. Antibiotics are sometimes prescribed to help control the infection.

When the tooth is free of infection, the canals and pulp chamber are sealed with a material (gutta-percha), which prevents bacteria from reentering the tooth. Because a root canal filled tooth becomes somewhat brittle, a crown is often recommended to protect the tooth from breakage.

Is the procedure painful?

Root canal therapy is seldom painful. The tissues surrounding the tooth may be tender for a few days. An over-the–counter pain reliever is usually all you need.

What are the risks and complications of root canal therapy?

Root canal therapy is a safe and successful procedure. Risks and complications include:

  • Pain and infection
  • Side effects from medication or anesthesia
  • Soreness of the jaw joint and surrounding muscles
  • Need for additional treatment such as endodontic surgery

Is a root canal filled tooth a dead tooth?

No. Although the tooth is nonvital because the pulp has been removed, it still receives nourishment from the outer tissues. Contrary to popular belief, the tooth will not turn black. The slight discoloration that may occur can be treated with simple bleaching. A root canal filled tooth is not a source of infection, nor will it cause any of the many conditions superstitiously attributed to a “dead” tooth. Most root canal filled teeth last as long as the other unaffected teeth.

Follow up

Root canal therapy can save damaged or diseased teeth. To ensure that your other teeth don’t also need root canal therapy, keep up good oral hygiene practice. This means brushing and flossing daily, and seeing your dentist regularly.

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