For many people, especially those who are nervous about seeing their dentist, the phrase “root canal” can strike fear. However, a root canal is a routine dental procedure, which can be carried out without pain and can relieve pain caused by an infected tooth. Although you might have bad associations with root canals, modern dentistry makes it an uncomplicated treatment. It can save a tooth that is badly decayed or infected by removing the nerve and pulp inside the tooth, cleaning the canals and sealing them. If an infection spreads, it can lead to abscesses, which are painful and will need further treatment.
What Is a Root Canal?
A root canal is a natural cavity that is within the tooth. Smaller teeth, such as incisors, tend to have a single root and a single root canal, while larger teeth such as molars can have one two roots, with one or two root canals. Root canals contain the pulp of the tooth and the tooth’s nerve. The tooth consists of enamel on the outside, dentin underneath, and then the pulp in the center. A root canal procedure removes the nerve and pulp, which doesn’t affect the health of the tooth. The nerve is there for sensory purposes but isn’t necessary for the tooth to be healthy.
When Do You Need a Root Canal?
A root canal treatment is carried out when the pulp of a tooth or the nerve tissue is damaged. When this happens, bacteria can get into the pulp chamber and lead to an infection and even an abscessed tooth. An abscess forms when a pocket at the end of the tooth’s roots fills with pus. If the infection spreads to the end of the tooth, an abscess forms. Even if there is no abscess, an infection can still cause swelling, bone loss and drainage problems, which can be caused by a hole in the tooth, leading to drainage into the gums or cheek.
The nerve or pulp of a tooth could be damaged through decay or injury, or sometimes due to repeated dental procedures on a tooth or large fillings.
The Root Canal Procedure
Before a root canal, an X-ray will show what the tooth looks like and if there are any signs of infection. During a root canal procedure, the dentist or endodontist will first administer a local anesthetic to numb the treatment area. Some patients might choose to have sedation dentistry if they are particularly nervous and want to be completely relaxed. The anesthetic is injected in the dentist will then wait for it to take effect before beginning treatment.
A rubber dam keeps the area around the tooth dry during treatment. Next, a hole is drilled into the tooth and the pulp is removed using files. The tooth is also flushed with water to sodium hydrochlorite every now and then to wash away the debris. After it has been cleaned out, the tooth is filled. Sometimes it might be temporarily filled, and you will come back for a permanent filling and possibly a crown.
A root canal procedure can save an infected tooth so that it doesn’t need to be removed. Your dentist can make the procedure painless and straightforward.