Why a Root Canal?
When a tooth becomes badly infected or decayed, a root canal may be the last hope to save it. The root of a tooth contains a space – or canal – which is home to the tooth’s nerve and pulp. When this pulp becomes infected, the area surrounding the tooth can also become infected and painful, possibly dangerous abscesses may form. The best way to eliminate the infection or bacteria is to remove the tooth’s pulp and nerve, cleaning the inside of the tooth, sealing it, and leaving the outer part of the tooth intact.
The Root Canal Process
Patients undergoing a root canal can expect one or more appointments to complete the procedure, depending on the severity of the problem. The procedure is conducted by a dentist or an endodontist. Patients can expect an X-ray to determine the severity and spread of the infection, followed by a local anesthetic applied near the tooth. Your dentist will drill an access hole into the tooth to remove decayed tissue and bacteria. In order to ensure that all damaged tissue is removed, a series of root canal files in increasing diameter are inserted into the tooth and down into the canal. The area is then flushed with water or solution, and sometimes medication is applied to eliminate any further infection. Before sealing the tooth with a filling, your dentist will place a rubber compound into the tooth’s canal to fill the space that contained the nerve and pulp.
The tooth is then sealed – sometimes at the same appointment, and sometimes at a later appointment if your dentist is concerned about further infection; in this case, a temporary filling will be placed in the hole to eliminate further contamination between appointments. Depending on the extent of the damage to the tooth, a crown or further restoration may be necessary, which may also require further appointments. Your dentist will discuss your specific needs with you.
Results of Having a Root Canal
After a root canal is performed, the tooth looks intact, but the nerve has been removed. The nerve is not vital to the tooth’s function. Rather, it performs a sensory role, feeling hot, cold, and pain. Although these sensations will no longer be experienced by a tooth on which a root canal has been performed, the tooth still retains its ability to chew and its cosmetic integrity.
Consequences of Not Having a Root Canal
If a root canal is not performed on a tooth with a badly damaged or decayed interior, abscesses may form in the tissue surrounding the tooth, and the infection can spread. Infection can cause swelling in the face or neck, drainage through a crack or hole in the tooth, and even bone loss in the jaw near the tip of the tooth’s root.
How to Avoid a Root Canal
Good dental hygiene is vital to avoiding the decay or infection that can necessitate a root canal. Regular visits to your dentist and early intervention when experiencing tooth pain or increased sensitivity can monitor the health of your teeth and reduce the chance that you will need a root canal.
Root canals may seem like an elaborate intervention, but they have an extremely high success rate. The result is the elimination of infection and the cosmetic restoration of the tooth. Most patients report no further problems with the affected tooth.