Root canal treatment is necessary when the pulp (the innermost layer of the tooth which houses nerves and blood vessels) becomes inflamed or infected. This can arise due to a variety of causes including a deep cavity, a filling that is placed in close proximity to the pulp or a structural crack or traumatic injury to the tooth. If the pulp is left untreated, it can cause severe pain and will leads to an abscess.
Signs of pulp damage include throbbing pain, prolonged sensitivity to hot or cold, painful chewing with the affected tooth, discoloration of the tooth and swelling and tenderness in the nearby gums. Occasionally a tooth may require root canal treatment even without any symptoms.
Root canal treatment can often be performed in one or two visits depending on the complexity of the canal system and the severity of the infection. It involves the following steps:
1) Our doctors perform several tests to determine the health of the pulp within your tooth. An x-ray will be taken. Then profound local anesthesia is achieved. After the tooth is numb, we place a small protective sheet called a “dental dam” over the area to isolate the tooth and keep it clean and free of saliva during the procedure.
2) The dentist makes an opening in the tooth to access the pulp chamber and locate the root canal system. Anterior teeth and lower bicuspids usually have one canal, upper bicuspids usually have two canals and the molars have 3-5 canals. Very small instruments called “files” are used sequentially to clean and shape the canal system to receive the canal filling.
3) After the space is cleaned and shaped, the dentist fills the root canals with a biocompatible material, usually a rubber-like material called “gutta-percha”. The gutta-percha is placed with an adhesive cement to ensure complete sealing of the root canals.
4) After the root canal treatment is finished, you will likely need to have a crown or other restoration placed on the tooth to protect and restore it to full function. It is possible to do a full root canal and crown in a single appointment using our CEREC technology if the case is appropriate. Failure to protect a root canal treated tooth with a crown will increase the risk of a fracture of the tooth and ultimately loss of the tooth.
5) If the tooth lacks sufficient structure to hold the core build up in place, we may place a post inside the tooth. Ask us for more details about the specific restoration planned for your tooth.