A root canal procedure is a treatment used to repair and save a tooth that is badly decayed or becomes infected. During a root canal procedure, the nerve and pulp are removed and the inside of the tooth is cleaned and sealed. Without treatment, the tissue surrounding the tooth will become infected and abscesses may form. "Root canal" is the term used to describe the natural cavity within the center of the tooth. The pulp or pulp chamber is the soft area within the root canal. The tooth's nerve lies within the root canal. Having been equipped with the knowledge discussed below, you'll surely be able to endure a root canal treatment.
- Know why the pulp needs to be removed. When nerve tissue or pulp is damaged, it breaks down and bacteria begin to multiply within the pulp chamber. The bacteria and other decayed debris can cause an infection or abscessed tooth. An abscess occurs when the infection spreads all the way past the ends of the roots of the tooth. In addition to an abscess, an infection in the root canal of a tooth can cause:
- Swelling that may spread to other areas of the face, neck, or head.
- Bone loss around the tip of the root.
- Drainage problems extending outward from the root.
- Determine whether you need a root canal or not. Sometimes no symptoms are present; however, signs to look for include:
- Severe toothache pain upon chewing or application of pressure.
- Prolonged sensitivity/pain to heat or cold temperatures (after the hot or cold has been removed).
- Discoloration (a darkening) of the tooth.
- Swelling and tenderness in the nearby gums.
- A persistent or recurring pimple on the gums.
- Visit your dentist or endodontist. A root canal requires one or more office visits and can be performed by a dentist or endodontist. An endodontist is a dentist who specializes in the causes, diagnosis, prevention and treatment of diseases and injuries of the human dental pulp or the nerve of the tooth.
- Be knowledgeable of the root canal procedure. This include the following steps:
- Take an x-ray to see the shape of the root canals and determine if there are any signs of infection in a surrounding bone.
- Your dentist or endodontist will then use local anesthesia to numb the area near the tooth.
- Keep the area dry and free of saliva during treatment. Your dentist will place a rubber dam (a sheet of rubber) around the tooth.
- An access hole will then be drilled into the tooth. The pulp along with bacteria, the decayed nerve tissue and related debris is removed from the tooth. The cleaning out process is accomplished using root canal files. Water or sodium hypochlorite is used periodically to flush away the debris.
- Once the tooth is thoroughly cleaned, it is sealed. Some dentists like to wait a week before sealing the tooth, for instance, if there is an infection. If the root canal is not completed on the same day, a temporary filling is placed in the exterior hole in the tooth to keep contaminants out between appointments.
- At the next appointment, to fill the interior of the tooth, a sealer paste and a rubber compound called gutta percha is placed into the tooth's root canal. To fill the exterior access hole created at the beginning of treatment, a filling is placed.
- May involve further restoration of the tooth. Because a tooth that needs a root canal often is one that has a large filling or extensive decay or other weakness, a crown, crown and post or other restoration often needs to be placed on the tooth to protect it, prevent it from breaking and restore it to full function.
- Know what to expect after the root canal treatment. Your tooth will be sore for two to three days after the procedure, and your dentist will tell you to avoid chewing on the affected side. The worse the infection and inflammation was prior to root canal treatment, the sorer the tooth will be after treatment. You can take over-the-counter pain relievers to ease the discomfort.
- Anesthesia may not be necessary, since the nerve is dead, but most dentists still anesthetize the area to make the patient more relaxed and at ease.
- It is better to keep your natural teeth if at all possible. If a tooth is missing, neighboring teeth can drift out of line and can be overstressed. Keeping your natural teeth also helps you to avoid more expensive and extensive treatments, such as implants or bridges.
- Root canal treatment is highly successful; the procedure has more than a 95% success rate. Many teeth fixed with a root canal can last a lifetime.
- The cost varies depending on how severe the problem is and the tooth affected. Many dental insurance policies cover endodontic treatment. A ballpark estimate for the root canal treatment itself performed by a general dentist could range from $350 to $540 for an incisor and $520 to $800 for a molar. The fees charged by endodontists could be up to 50% higher.
- In most cases, you will not experience any pain during the root canal procedure. Your dentist will completely numb your tooth and the surrounding area, so there is no need to be afraid of the procedure.
- If an infected or injured tooth that needs root canal treatment is ignored, not only can you lose the tooth, but also the infection can spread to other parts of your body.
- Despite your dentist's best efforts to clean and seal a tooth, new infections might emerge. Among the likely reasons for this include:
- More than the normally anticipated number of root canals in a tooth (leaving one of them uncleaned).
- An undetected crack in the root of a tooth.
- A defective or inadequate dental restoration that has allowed bacteria to get past the restoration into the inner aspects of the tooth and recontaminate the area.
- A breakdown of the inner sealing material over time, allowing bacteria to recontaminate the inner aspects of the tooth.
Sources and Citations
- How to Avoid Tooth Decay
- How to Deal With Having Bad Teeth
- How to Pull out a Loose Tooth
- How to Recover after Wisdom Teeth Surgery
- How to Stop Sensitive Teeth Pain
- How to Whiten Teeth
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