Everyone has heard the term root canal. However, many patients are confused about the what, why, and how of root canal therapy.
You may be advised to undergo root canal therapy, or you may have a family member who needs the treatment. Here are four quick facts about root canal treatment to help you understand a bit more about the procedure.
- Root Canal Treatment Fixes Issues Inside the Tooth
Teeth have more than what you see on the surface. An intricate endodontic system is tucked inside the hollow center of each tooth, and this area is also called the root canal.
The endodontic system is made up of a material commonly called pulp. Pulp provides a cushioned pathway for nutrients and sensation to reach the tooth.
- Tiny blood vessels
- Nerve pathways
- Connective tissue
The blood vessels oxygenate, warm, and nourish teeth, while nerve tissue allows you to feel heat, cold, and trauma in the tooth area. Connective tissue anchors your teeth to your mouth.
When there are issues with your endodontic or root-canal system, root canal treatment is needed. You may refer to the treatment as having a root canal done. To get technical, you’re undergoing endodontic treatment in the root canal area.
- Root Canal Therapy Becomes Necessary for Multiple Reasons
The nerves in tooth pulp are sensitive to stimuli. Certain disruptions or changes in a tooth’s root canal will cause you to feel intense pain in the affected tooth.
Some common causes of endodontic pain include:
- Blunt-force trauma to the tooth
- Dental decay from cavities
- Recent dental procedures including fillings
- Periodontal disease and infection
- Cracks and chips in tooth
- Eroded or missing fillings
Root canal therapy is performed to soothe intense tooth pain. The damaged or infected pulp is removed along with the nerve tissue that causes you to feel excruciating tooth pain.
- Root Canal Treatment Is Reserved for Special Tooth Pain
Your dentist won’t perform a root canal for tooth pain alone. Many causes of tooth pain subside with time and proper treatment. Swelling from trauma eventually goes down, antibiotics eventually clear up gum infections, and fresh fillings protect inner teeth from the pain of decay, bacteria, and temperature sensitivity.
Root canal therapy is necessary for pain when the affected tooth:
- Becomes dark or discolored
- Develops a pimple or cyst on nearby gum
- Swells up under gum line
- Affects your ability to eat and drink
- Develops deep recurring infections
Your dentist will try to save as much of the healthy pulp as he or she can. This careful approach means you may be able to save an infected tooth after a root canal procedure.
- Root Canal Treatment Is Safe but Requires a Few Visits
When you undergo treatment in your root canal, you may need to visit your dentist two or more times to ensure the treatment is effective. The dental staff will go over all of the details of the procedure and answer any questions and worries you may have about root canal therapy.
According to the American Association of Endodontics, 40,000 root canal treatments are performed every day in the U.S., which adds up to 15 million root canal procedures per year. Dentists have been performing these treatments for a long time, and dentists now have modern tools to help them expertly navigate inside your teeth.
Treatment steps in the first visit of a root canal procedure may involve:
- Preparing mouth for treatment
- Numbing the dental area
- Accessing root with miniature drills
- Cleaning up tooth and pulp
- Shaping inner chamber of tooth
- Flushing area free of debris
- Applying treatment solutions including antibiotics
- Packing and temporarily filling the tooth
If there are still infection and inflammation in the tooth area, your dentist may leave the area open to let the fluids drain. In other cases, teeth can be sealed permanently the same day that the root canal procedure is performed.