Root canal is a dental treatment designed to remove bacteria from an infected tooth, preventing reinfection of the tooth and saving the natural tooth.
A root canal treatment is necessary in cases where the decay is beyond what a regular dental filling can fix. To understand the need for root canal treatments, you need to understand the structure of the tooth and where the canal is located.
A root canal is a dental treatment that performs two actions:
- The extraction of the decaying or infected pulp of a damaged tooth
- Filling and sealing it up to prevent further damage or infection
The structure of a tooth.
A tooth contains the outer crown which is visible with a root structure that holds it down to the gum. At the center of the tooth, a softcore contains the nerves, blood vessels, and tissues connecting the tooth to the gum. This softcore is known as the dental pulp and it is located in the pulp chamber which extends down the roots and into the gums.
When bacteria gets into the tooth and infects the surrounding gum and the tooth itself, the dental pulp begins to decay. This decay often shows some sort of outward sign and this may be in the form of pus- an accumulation of decaying tissue seeping out as yellowish fluid and leaving a bitter taste in the mouth. There may also be the formation of an abscess which can grow into a slight swelling on the gum, causing irritation or itching.
If left unchecked, this decay will keep spreading until the tooth and surrounding gums get damaged. It may even spread to the surrounding teeth. A root canal treatment removes the decaying part to prevent it from spreading.
Steps involved in Root Canal Procedure
The first step in a root canal procedure is a diagnosis, i.e. checking for decay. Sometimes, the symptoms described above do not necessarily mean a root canal is required. There are a host of other minor conditions that may result in gum itching or irritation. On the first appointment, the dentist checks the area where the pain is being felt to confirm if decay is actually occurring. This check may involve an x-ray scan or a pulp vitality test to ascertain the state of the tooth and gum. If decay is confirmed and a root canal is decided on as the chosen treatment, it can either be done immediately or scheduled for the next appointment.
Local anesthesia is applied to numb the area and prevent pain. A hole is then made at the top of the tooth through which the canal is extracted and cleaned with disinfectants to eliminate any infection. After cleaning, the root canal is reshaped in order to prepare it for the canal fillings that will be used to plug the space left by the decayed tooth matter. For a single appointment procedure, the dentist would apply a permanent canal filling. A dental crown may be placed atop it to prevent damage later on.
If the procedure would be spread over two appointments, the dentist will insert some calcium hydroxide into the canal to kill any remaining bacteria and use a temporary filling to plug the resulting hole. Antibiotics may also be administered to kill off infections. At the next appointment, the dentist would again start by applying local anesthesia. The next step would be to remove the temporary filling and replace it with permanent filling and eventually a crown to keep it all in.
It’s normal to experience numbness and soreness for the first couple hours after the surgery. This should wear off as time proceeds. Any persistent pain should be reported to the dentist. Also, be sure to use any prescribed drugs and avoid extremely hot or cold foods. Finally, practice oral hygiene to keep the mouth healthy and prevent another onset of infection.
Looking to get a root canal procedure?
If you think you have symptoms that require root canal treatment, you should talk to a dentist to get scanned and determine if that is truly the case.