Root canal therapy is a procedure that involves accessing and removing the pulp (nerves, blood vessels, connective tissue) inside a tooth. This procedure is necessary when bacteria from a cavity or a fractured tooth progress to the center of the tooth (pulp), resulting in infection and inflammation. When the pulp becomes infected it is absolutely necessary to remove the infected tissue in order to save the tooth. The procedure is a very common treatment method used by dentists to remove infection and help preserve a tooth that would otherwise be extracted.

If you think you may have an infected tooth and may need a root canal, you should set up an appointment as soon as possible.

If you have any of the following symptoms you may have an infected/inflamed tooth pulp:

  • Pain when you chew.
  • A change in the color of your sore tooth.
  • Sensitivity to hot or cold foods and beverages.
  • A severe toothache.
  • Swelling of the gums around the tooth.

Beyond an infected tooth pulp, it may also be necessary to have a root canal procedure if you have recently damaged a tooth. If you have had an accident that has resulted in trauma to your tooth, you should have a discussion with your dentist quickly to see if root canal therapy is necessary to help preserve your tooth.

The Root Canal Procedure

Once a patient is properly anesthetized, the root canal procedure is fairly painless and actually eliminates the source of pain caused by the infected tooth. Delayed treatment of an infected tooth will not only result in prolonging the pain, but also increasing the risk of the potential of the infection in the pulp to spread to the gums or other teeth. Also, allowing the tooth to remain infected could result in the tooth being beyond repair and needing to be extracted. The procedure includes the following steps:

  1. Your dentist will complete an exam of your mouth and the tooth you are concerned with. If the pain is the result of cavity, you may only need a dental filling. If the pulp of the tooth is infected your dentist will determine if a root canal can save the infected tooth.
  2. If your dentist decides on a root canal procedure, the goal will be to treat the tooth and remove the infected pulp. This will be done by creating a small hole in the tooth and then carefully cleaning out the canal of the inner tooth. Before starting the procedure, your dentist will give you local anesthesia to prevent any pain or discomfort.
  3. Once the dentist cleans out the inside of the tooth and removes all the dead/inflamed tissue they will then disinfect the inside of the tooth.
  4. Following cleaning and disinfection, the canal space inside the tooth is filled and sealed to prevent future bacteria from accessing the canal space again.
  5. If your dentist needed to remove a significant amount of decay from the inside of the tooth they may decide to place a dental crown over the tooth to provide further strength and durability to the tooth moving forward.

The root canal procedure can sometimes be completed within one visit, however, it can take more than one visit depending on the tooth involved and that extent of the infection.

Root Canal For Children

For children, a root canal procedure is called a pulpotomy. Tooth infections are more common for children than for adults because their teeth are more susceptible to decay. The root canal procedure and the pulpotomy are very similar procedures. If your child has a tooth ache or a tooth that you are worried may be infected, you should set up a check-up for your child with your dentist to make sure any possible tooth infections are treated quickly.

Avoiding Root Canals

The first place to start to avoid the need for root canal therapy is prevention with proper oral hygiene. By brushing your teeth and flossing at least twice a day you can prevent the onset of tooth decay. It is also very important to maintain a regular schedule of dental visits. At your routine check-ups your dentist will complete a comprehensive exam to check for any signs of tooth decay and infection and a professional dental cleaning. Regular exams and professional cleanings are important to ensure you avoid the future need for root canal therapy.

The idea of a root canal procedure may seem scary, but in reality, the procedure usually results in immense pain relief and preventing the need to have a tooth pulled. If an infected or damaged tooth is left untreated, the results could be dramatically worse than needing a root canal therapy procedure. If you have a damaged tooth or have noticed the possible signs of a tooth infection you should schedule an appointment at the dental offices of Lawhead Family Dentistry and have your tooth/teeth examined as soon as possible. Seeing Dr. Chris or Dr. Carlin Lawhead may result in saving a tooth rather than losing it permanently. We want to help you maintain your natural teeth and the smile that makes you uniquely you.