Root canal therapy is also referred to as endodontic treatment, and it involves treating the inside of the tooth in order to fix problems that arise due to pulp inflammation or infection. If left untreated, these problems can result in pain, abscesses, or even tooth loss, but root canal therapy can help to save the teeth by correcting the appearance, function, and structure.
When a Root Canal is Needed
Root canal therapy is used to repair teeth that have decayed badly or have become infected. When the pulp within the teeth is damaged, a root canal can be used to remove the nerve and damaged area while cleaning out and sealing the inner portion of the tooth. While these procedures often have a bad reputation for being quite painful, many patients report that the actual level of discomfort experienced was no more than that of a traditional filling.
Signs You Need a Root Canal
There are several signs and symptoms that might indicate that you are in need of a root canal:
- Pulsing or throbbing pain in the affected tooth
- Pain that intensifies or lessens depending on your posture or the position of your jaw
- Pain that is triggered by hot or cold exposure
- Pain that worsens when biting or chewing
- Tooth discomfort that wakes you from your sleep
If we suspect that you might need a root canal, one of several tests may be completed to better understand the severity of your issue:
- X-rays: X-rays of will be taken of the affected tooth from various angles to provide conclusive evidence about the need for a root canal.
- Percussion testing: This test involves tapping on the teeth with an end of a dental tool to determine if any teeth are having problems with their nerve roots.
- Electric pulp testing: This test utilizes low levels of electrical currents in order to check tooth sensitivity.
- Thermal testing: Placing hot and cold extremes onto a tooth can tell a lot about its health, as a hot stimulus might cause pain while a cold stimulus could provide relief.
The Root Canal Therapy Procedure
Root canals can be completed in one to three dental office visits. First, the tooth will be examined and a local anesthetic will be administered to prevent pain. A dental dam will then be placed over the tooth in order to keep it free of saliva and to isolate it from the other teeth during treatment.
After your tooth has been prepped, an opening will be placed into the crown so that the pulp chamber and root canal can be cleaned out. The space is shaped for filling, and once cleaned thoroughly, a rubber-like substance known as gutta-percha will be placed into opening to ensure that the root canal has been sealed completely.
In some cases, a temporary filling will be put into place before the final restoration is put in. During the final visit, a crown or other restoration will be placed onto the tooth for protection. This last step should return your tooth to its full function and appearance.