Root Canal Therapy

What is root canal therapy?

Root canal therapy is designed to correct disorders of the dental pulp -- the soft tissue inside the center of the tooth. Dental pulp contains nerves, blood vessels, and connective tissue. Teeth with abscessed, or infected, nerves were once removed. But now, in 95 percent of these cases of pulpal infection, the natural tooth can be saved through modern endodontic procedures. Also called pulp specialists, endodontists have undergone specialized training in performing root canal therapy.

What causes pulpal nerve damage?

The most common causes of pulpal nerve damage are:

  • Infection. This is generally brought on by tooth decay (cavity) reaching the nerve or a cracked tooth. Both of these situations can allow harmful bacteria to reach the nerve, resulting in infection and decay.

  • Trauma. A blow to a tooth or the jaw can cause damage to sensitive nerve tissue within the tooth.

What are the signs and symptoms of pulpal nerve damage?

The following are the most common signs and symptoms of pulpal nerve damage. However, each individual may experience symptoms differently. Signs and symptoms may include:

  • Pain in the tooth when biting down

  • Tooth pain while chewing

  • Oversensitivity of the teeth with hot or cold drinks

  • Facial swelling

The signs and symptoms of pulpal nerve damage may resemble other oral health conditions. Consult a dentist, or other oral health specialist, for diagnosis.

Why is root canal therapy necessary?

Without treatment, the infection of the dental pulp will spread to the bone around the tooth, making it unable to hold the tooth in place.

What does the root canal procedure involve?

After anesthetic is administered, treatment begins with the drilling of an opening in the top of the tooth (crown) to allow access to the pulpal tissue. Once the affected pulpal tissue is exposed, it is removed. The area surrounding and containing the pulpal tissue is carefully cleaned, enlarged, and shaped to provide a clean surface for filling with a permanent filler to prohibit any further infection and discomfort. After the root canal is filled and sealed, a crown is fabricated to restore the natural tooth and prevent it from fracturing. The root canal procedure may be completed in one or more visits. Once the tooth is comfortable, the restoration with a crown can take place.

What post-operative care is needed following a root canal?

Once the root canal therapy is completed, there will be changes to adapt to, including:

  • Brittleness. A pulpless tooth is more brittle than a non-treated tooth and great care should be taken to avoid fracture and chipping. The tooth is restored with a crown to prevent fracture.

  • Discoloration. A non-vital tooth may become discolored over time, but it can be treated with bleaching. In most cases, the discoloration poses no threat to the health of the tooth.

In addition, soft tissue inflammation may be a source of irritation in the weeks following surgery. Consult your dentist, or other oral health specialist, for a treatment approach to help control any post-operative swelling and discomfort.