Root canal is the term which describes the natural cavity within the center of the tooth. The pulp or pulp chamber is the soft area within the root canal. In the root canal is where a tooths nerve is. The nerve is not vitally important to the health of the tooth; it is only present to provide the sensation of hot or cold. Therefore, when root canal therapy is called for, there is very little downside to the procedure.
Root canal treatment is provided to save a tooth that has become infected or is badly decayed. When other treatment options such as a filling, onlay or crown are not sufficient, a root canal will be performed. In the root canal procedure, the nerve and pulp are removed from the canal, which is then cleaned and sealed. Sealing the canal prevents bacteria from entering and causing gum tissue damage. Should decay be allowed to continue, the surrounding gum tissue will be affected and a tooth abscess may occur. An abscess is a pus-filled pocket that forms at the end of the roots of the tooth. Understandably, an abscess or infection causes the patient intense pain.
Sometimes, a patient needing root canal treatment may experience no pain whatsoever. There are instances where a dental exam uncovers a crack or fracture that has allowed bacteria to settle into the root. When this cannot otherwise be repaired, the most suitable option is a root canal. Most patients do experience some sort of symptom that will alert them to the problem. Such symptoms may include:
Severe pain in a tooth when chewing or applying pressure
Sensitivity to hot and cold temperatures that does not lessen soon after the hot or cold has been removed
Swollen or tender gums
Recurring or persistent pimple on the gums
Darkening of the tooth
The root canal procedure typically requires two or more visits to the dentist. Some dentists will refer the patient to the Endodonist for the procedure. During the first visit, a diagnosis will be made and treatment will be planned. The next visit will be for the root canal procedure. To perform a root canal, the dentist or Endodontist will typically numb the area with local anesthetic; however, the nerve is already dead so this step is mainly to settle the nerves of the patient. In addition to receiving local numbing, some patients also receive a mild sedative. The root canal procedure may take up to 90 minutes to complete, and some patients simply cannot stand the thought of sitting in the chair that long.
After the root canal procedure, the dentist will typically place a temporary crown over the affected tooth, as this will restore natural tooth appearance and strength for chewing. Typically, a tooth that requires a root canal has extensive damage and a good portion of the tooth has likely been removed. You therefore must have this “cap” to maintain a healthy mouth. The dentist will then order a permanent crown to be made, which takes approximately two weeks.
Receiving root canal therapy should not be avoided, as the consequences are further problems and pain. Your highly skilled dentist has the advanced technology to remove the painful situation and restore your tooth to a healthy state.