Root Canal Therapy

  • Root canal therapy (RCT) is needed when the nerve of a tooth is affected by decay or infection. To save the tooth, the living tissue inside the tooth (pulp), nerves, bacteria, and any decay are removed and the resulting space is filled with medicated dental material which restores the tooth to its full function. Having a root canal is the therapy of choice to save a tooth that otherwise would die and have to be extracted. Many patients believe that removing a problem tooth is the best solution, but what is not realized is that extracting a tooth can be more costly and cause significant problems for adjacent teeth. Root canal therapy is highly successful and usually lasts a lifetime, although on occasion, a tooth will have to be retreated due to new infection.

    SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS FOR POSSIBLE ROOT CANAL THERAPY

    • Swelling and/or tenderness
    • Sensitivity to hot and cold
    • Severe toothache pain
    • An abscess (or pimple) on the gums
    • Sometimes no symptoms are present

    REASONS FOR ROOT CANAL THERAPY

    • Decay has reached the tooth’s pulp
    • Infection or an abscess has developed inside the tooth or at the root tip
    • Injury or trauma to the tooth

    WHAT DOES ROOT CANAL THERAPY INVOLVE?

    Root canal therapy requires one or more appointments and can be performed by a dentist or endodontist (a root canal specialist).

    While the tooth is numb, a rubber dam (sheet of rubber) is placed around the tooth to keep it dry and free of saliva. An access opening is made on top of the tooth and a series of root canal files are placed into the opening one at a time, removing the pulp, nerve tissue, bacteria, and if present, decay. Once the tooth is cleaned, it will be sealed with either a permanent filling or, if additional appointments are required, a temporary filling.

    At the second appointment, usually a week later, the roots and the inside cavity of the tooth will be filled and sealed. A filling will be placed to cover the opening on top of the tooth. In addition, all teeth that have root canal therapy should have a crown placed to protect the tooth and restore it to its full function.

    After the treatment, your tooth may still be sensitive, but this will subside as the inflammation diminishes and the tooth heals. You will be given specific care instructions after each appointment. Quality oral hygiene practices and regular dental visits will improve the life of your root canal.

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