A root canal procedure is performed when a tooth has become badly infected or decayed, and the pulp inside the tooth is damaged. During a root canal, the dentist removes the pulp and the nerve and then cleans and seals the tooth. While many people think a root canal is painful, it feels about the same as having a tooth filled.

Signs a Root Canal is Needed

Signs a tooth is in need of root canal therapy include:

  • Extreme tooth pain from pressure or biting down
  • Sensitivity to cold or heat long after the source has been removed
  • Tooth discoloration
  • Tenderness and swelling in gum tissue
  • Gum pimples that are constant or recurring

How a Root Canal is Performed

A root canal may be completed in one office visit or may require multiple appointments depending on how advanced the infection is. Dentists can perform the procedure, but more complicated cases may be referred to an endodontist, who is a specialist in tooth pulp and nerves. The root canal is performed in the following steps:

  • Taking x-rays to determine root canal shape and to see if there is any infection present
  • Applying a numbing agent to aid in the patient’s comfort
  • Placing a rubber dam around the tooth to keep it isolated during the procedure
  • Creating an access to the tooth to remove nerve tissue and other debris, which is rinsed away with sodium hypochlorite
  • Sealing the tooth once the cleaning is finished and placing a temporary or permanent filling depending on the patient’s needs

In some cases, the dentist or endodontist may wait a week before sealing a tooth if there is an infection that needs to be cleared. Once a tooth is sealed, it may require further restoration work, such as a crown, to give it more support.

After the Root Canal

A root canal should eliminate the pain caused by infection or decay. Until the procedure is completely done, it is best to reduce chewing on that side of the mouth. The patient may take a pain reliever for the natural inflammation that occurs after the procedure. Patients should also brush and floss regularly to achieve optimum oral health.

A root canal is nothing to fear and has a very high rate of success. Most teeth repaired with the procedure will last for life.

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