Root Canal Therapy

Our teeth are complex structures that include:
• The outer surface (enamel)
• Inside tissues (pulp, dentin and cementum)
• Spaces (pulp cavity and root canals)
• Blood vessels and a nerve inside each tooth

Untreated cavities in the enamel of a tooth can lead to an infection. This infection is usually located in the soft tissue inside the tooth, called the pulp. This type of infection can be very painful, but it can be treated. Root canal therapy can save a tooth that might otherwise have been lost.

What is root canal therapy?

Root canal therapy is a procedure to remove infection of the pulp inside the tooth. All of the pulp tissue must be removed to get rid of the infection. Sometimes root canal therapy can be completed during one appointment. Other times, two appointments are needed to complete the treatment.

What can I expect during a root canal procedure?

Though root canal treatments often have a bad reputation, we often hear our patients say “Wow!  That was so much easier than I thought!” We promise to take our time and make certain you are comfortable every step of the way.

Before the procedure, x-rays are taken to determine the overall health of the affected tooth and possibly nearby teeth. Because your comfort is very important, your dentist will take time to carefully numb up the part of your mouth where the root canal therapy is being done by using both gel and a numbing medicine injection.

Next, the tooth being worked on is isolated using a small rubber sheet called a dental dam. This prevents saliva from entering the tooth during the procedure. Once the root canal site is prepared, your dentist will use a small drill to open the top of the tooth (crown). Just like treatment for a cavity, decayed tooth enamel is removed at this time. Through this opening, tiny instruments are used to clean the infection out of the pulp cavity root canals.

After the cleaning process is completed, the root canals are shaped and filled with a permanent, rubber-like substance to prevent further infection. Depending on how much enamel was removed from the top of the tooth, a small metal post may be inserted into the root canal to give extra support to the tooth. The top of the tooth is then closed with either a filling or a crown.

Root canal procedures can usually be completed in one or two appointments, resulting in a functional, pain-free tooth and complete smile. Many people are surprised to discover the pain of the infection was much worse than the root canal therapy procedure.

What can I expect after my root canal procedure?

The numbing medicine used to keep you comfortable during the root canal procedure may last for a few hours. As it wears off, it is normal to have some mild discomfort. This can usually be treated with over-the-counter pain medicine. Placing an ice pack over the area where the procedure was completed can also help ease discomfort. You might notice some mild swelling over the affected tooth. This should go away in a day or two.

Your dentist may ask you to take an antibiotic for several days after the procedure. If so, it is important to finish all the medicine to avoid a return of the infection or future, more serious infections.

How do I tell if there is a problem after my root canal procedure?

Most people do not have any problems after root canal therapy. However, problems can sometimes happen, especially if the pulp infection had begun spreading to the jaw bone before the procedure. Contact your dentist right away if you have:
• Severe discomfort after your procedure
• Discomfort that lasts more than 48 hours after your procedure
• A lot of swelling accompanied by pain in your mouth or jaw
• A fever
• Puss coming from the affected tooth

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