Root canal treatment
Natural teeth are the best
Today, dentists believe that our natural teeth are the best. That’s why they do their best to make sure you don’t lose any of them. A successful root canal allows you to keep the tooth, otherwise you have no choice but to have it extracted.
By keeping your natural teeth, you prevent the other teeth from losing their alignment and causing jaw problems or gum disease. Finally, by saving them, you avoid having to have them replaced by a bridge or a dental implant.
What is a root canal?
The teeth are composed of three hard layers:
- The dentin
The space inside these layers is called the canal. The canal is filled with a tissue: the dental pulp. It is a soft tissue that contains the nerves and blood vessels that allow the tooth to grow. Once the tooth has finished growing, it can survive without pulp. If the pulp is infected, it should be removed. The treatment is called root canal or endodontic treatment.
When is a root canal needed?
The dental pulp can be damaged by a crack in the enamel, a cavity or an accident. Bacteria can enter the tooth and infect the pulp, which can cause pain or inflammation. However, sometimes the pulp can become infected or die without pain.
Your dentist may notice some changes:
- In the color of the tooth
- In the appearance of the gums
- In the bone or at the root of the tooth, thanks to the signs seen on the X-ray
Sometimes, if the tooth is very damaged, your dentist can conclude that the pulp of the tooth may not survive.
In all cases, root canal treatment can reduce or even prevent the symptoms from occurring and thus save the tooth.
The procedure of root canal treatment
- A member of the dental team will place a dam around the tooth to protect it during treatment from the bacteria that live in the saliva.
- Your dentist may administer a local anesthetic if there is a risk of pain.
- Your dentist makes a small opening in the tooth to access the root canal and damaged pulp.
- He removes the pulp, cleans and widens the canal with precision instruments.
- Then he fills and seals the canal with a rubber-like material (called gutta-percha). An obturator is used to preset the temperature of the instrument, to melt the rubber and make a better seal.
- Finally, he seals the tooth opening with a temporary or permanent sealant.
Points to consider
Root canal treatment may take one or more visits, depending on the complexity of the root canal anatomy and the extent of pulp damage.
Sometimes, if the infection has spread from the tooth to the bone – causing an abscess – the infection must be drained before the canal can be filled.
Your tooth may remain sensitive for 1 to 2 weeks after treatment. It is rare that you will experience severe pain or inflammation. If you do, you should call your dentist as soon as possible.
To look and function as much like a natural tooth as possible, your tooth must then be restored with a filling or a crown.
The type of restoration will depend on the strength of what is left of the treated tooth. A back tooth will probably receive a crown since a lot of pressure is placed on these teeth when you chew. If there is not enough of the natural tooth left, your dentist may use a post to help hold the crown in place. A discolored tooth can either be bleached or covered with a crown or veneer.
Most of the time, an endodontically treated tooth can be saved. But sometimes all attempts fail and there is no choice but to extract the tooth.