Root Canals


What is Root Canals?


A tooth's nerve and pulp which is located in the center of the tooth called the root canal, can become irritated and infected if there is deep decay, chips or cracks to the tooth, or if many dental procedures have been performed on that tooth.

If at all possible, our first course of action is to save a tooth that has become damaged or infected, and we may recommend a root canal be performed as a way to save the tooth. During a root canal procedure, the nerve and pulp are removed and the inside of the tooth is cleaned and then sealed. If left untreated, the tissue surrounding the tooth can become infected and an abscess could occur.

A tooth's nerve is not important to a tooth's health and function after the tooth has emerged through the gums. Its only function is to provide the sensation of hot or cold and the absence of this nerve will not affect the chewing function of that tooth.

Root canal treatment consists of:
  • The removal of the infected or irritated nerve tissue that lies within the root of the tooth. It is this infected pulp tissue that causes an eventual abscess.
  • The first step in a root canal is to obtain access to the nerve. This is accomplished by establishing a small access opening in the top of the tooth. It will be done under a local anesthetic.
  • The length of the root canals are determined and the infected pulp is removed.
  • At the same visit, the canal where the nerve is located will be reshaped and prepared to accept a special root canal filling material. This filling procedure will probably not occur until your next visit. The number of visits necessary to complete your root canal will depend upon several factors including the number of nerves in the tooth, the infected state of the nerve and the complexity of the procedure.
  • The final step in your root canal will be the sealing of the root canal with a sterile, plastic material. This is done in order to prevent possible future infection.

The tooth will then possibly need a post and core and a crown in order to re-establish normal form and function. This decision will be based upon several additional factors. If treated early, root canal therapy need not be uncomfortable. With the use of local anesthetics, the entire procedure can be totally painless.

Another "Tale " is that by removing the nerve the tooth becomes " dead ". This is not true. The tooth is very much alive and functioning because it receives a source of blood supply and nerve supply from the surrounding tissues that hold it in place in your jaw bone. The tooth will have no sense of feeling to hot, cold or sweets but will be responsive to biting pressures etc. With the proper restoration the tooth should last as long as your other teeth and can even be used as an anchor tooth for a partial denture or cemented bridge. The success rates for root canal therapy have been reported to be as high as 95%.

Sometimes when there has been long standing infection or abscess, there may be some soreness associated with the first or second root canal visit. If this should turn out to be true you will be given specific instructions to follow, to minimize the discomfort. When an infection is present, it may be necessary to take an antibiotic. If pain should be present, analgesics may need to be prescribed. In either case, be sure to call your dental office if either of these problems should arise.

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