Updated: May 17, 2019
What is a Root Canal?
A root canal treatment is a treatment used to repair and save a tooth that is badly infected or is getting decayed. During a root canal therapy, the pulp and nerve of the tooth are removed and the inside is cleaned with disinfectant and sealed. Without root canal treatment, the tissue surrounding the tooth will become infected and can lead to formation of abscess (puss).
"Root canal" is the term used to describe the cavity within the the tooth(there can be more than one) . The root canal contains a soft area called "pulp" or "pulp chamber". The nerves lie within this pulp chamber. A tooth's nerve is very important to a tooth's health and function after it (tooth) has emerged through the gums. The only function of the nerve is sensory, i.e to provide the sensation of cold or hot substance. The absence of a nerve does not affect the normal functioning of the tooth.
What Damages a Tooth's Nerve and Pulp in the First Place?
A tooth's nerve and pulp can become irritated, inflamed, and infected due to deep decay, repeated dental procedures on a tooth, and/or large fillings, a crack or chip in the tooth, or trauma to the face.
What Happens During a Root Canal?
A root canal requires one or more office visits and can be performed by a dentist or endodontist. The first step in the procedure is to take an
X-ray to see the shape of the root canals and determine if there are any signs of infection in a surrounding bone. Your dentist will then use local anaesthesia to numb the area near the tooth. Anaesthesia may not be necessary, since the nerve is dead, but most dentists still anaesthetise the area to make the patient more relaxed and at ease.
An access hole will then be drilled into the tooth. The pulp along with bacteria, the decayed nerve tissue and related debris is removed from the tooth. The cleaning out process is accomplished using root canal files. A series of these files of increasing diameter are each subsequently placed into the access hole and worked down the full length of the tooth to scrape and scrub the sides of the root canals. Water or sodium hypochlorite is used periodically to flush away the debris.
Once the tooth is thoroughly cleaned, it is sealed. Some dentists like to wait a week before sealing the tooth. For instance, if there is an infection, your dentist may put a medication inside the tooth to clear it up. Others may choose to seal the tooth the same day it is cleaned out. If the root canal is not completed on the same day, a temporary filling is placed in the exterior hole in the tooth to keep out contaminants like saliva and food between appointments.At the next appointment, to fill the interior of the tooth, a sealer paste and a rubber compound called gutta percha is placed into the tooth's root canal. To fill the exterior access hole created at the beginning of treatment, a filling is placed.
The final step may involve further restoration of the tooth. Because a tooth that needs a root canal often is one that has a large filling or extensive decay or other weakness, a crown, crown and post, or other restoration often needs to be placed on the tooth to protect it, prevent it from breaking, and restore it to full function. Your dentist will discuss the need for any additional dental work with you.