A root canal, also known as endodontic therapy, is a procedure where the contents of the canals of a tooth’s roots are cleared of all contents. While your family dentist may offer to perform this procedure, very often the patient will be referred to an endodontist (a specialist that performs root canals).
What Can Happen if You Delay Treatment?
- Discomfort – If you delay or ignore treatment, you may experience significant discomfort.
- Infection – This can be a devastating complication, especially if infection spreads to other parts of your body.
- Tooth loss – If you require a root canal and decide against it, the only option left is extraction.
- Tooth replacement – If tooth loss does occur, you can be facing a significant investment to restore the tooth.
The Root Canal Process
Once your dentist has recognized your need for root canal therapy and refers you to an endodontist, you can expect an effective procedure with minimal discomfort (like what you would expect from a dental filling).
The tooth is anesthetized and a rubber dam is placed to segregate the tooth to be treated. Dental x-rays will determine how many roots are involved and their exact placement to facilitate reaching and clearing all of them. It is imperative that all roots be treated for a successful procedure.
The endodontist will create an access point in the tooth to be treated. Endodontic files will be used to remove the canal contents (pulp tissue, nerve, blood, and infection, if present). The tooth will be flushed continuously with everything being suctioned away.
The final step involves sealing the access point. Very often a dental crown is used, but when possible, your dentist may suggest a tooth colored filling to close that opening.
If a crown is used, the tooth will be trimmed and an impression is taken. A temporary is placed while the dental lab makes the crown.
Caring for a tooth that has been treated by a root canal is no different than any of your teeth. Brush twice every day with a fluoridated toothpaste, floss daily to reach between teeth to remove food particles caught there, and visit your dentist every six months for cleaning and a dental exam.