Root canal therapy is treatment used to repair and save a tooth that has been infected due to a deep cavity, cracked tooth or trauma that effects the nerve. The treatment involves removing the pulp and the nerves of the tooth, and cleaning the infected area and then plugging the canals with a bio compatible plastic material. After root canal treatment, the tooth will no longer feel nerve pain and can be used for normal chewing. If the treatment is not performed, pus builds up at the root tip and the infection of the pulp can spread to the surrounding bone. The results are pain, swelling, a loose tooth and your tooth would likely have to be removed.
What are the signs that a root canal is needed?
- Severe tooth pain while chewing
- Pain that wakes you up at night
- Teeth that are highly sensitive to hot or cold, with the sensitivity lingering for some time.
- Discoloration or darkening of the tooth
- Swollen gums in the area of the infected tooth
- Sometimes, the nerve can die over time and you may not even know it
What does the treatment involve?
First, we numb the tooth and the decay is removed. The pulp chamber is accessed and the nerve tissue is removed. Most patients do not feel pain, but if the tooth was hurting prior to starting the treatment, bacteria may be inhibiting the tooth from fully getting numb. This is when you would let your dentist know that you feel something, and she will provide you with more numbing solution. If the dentist decides to complete the root canal therapy in multiple visits, a temporary filling will be placed to protect the tooth. When you return, the dentist will remove the temporary filling, re-clean the root canal and pulp chamber, and place a permanent filling and / or crown over the tooth. Because root canal therapy effects the majority of your tooth surface, a crown is recommended to restore the structure and prevent the tooth from breaking when you chew.
Root canal therapy can last for 10-20+ years. Although root canals have a high rate of success, it is never guaranteed to last for a lifetime. It is the last effort to save a tooth as opposed to extracting it and there are many factors that can effect the prognosis. If the root canal fails, it may be from hidden bacteria in the canals, fractures in the root that is unseen or new decay that enters into the tooth. At this point, the dentist will advise you on whether the tooth needs to be retreated or extracted.