When your dentist removes an infection from your tooth’s pulp or nerve chamber, the procedure is called root canal therapy. Root canal becomes necessary for a variety of reasons, such as: deep tooth decay that has come very close to the verve, big fillings, a chipped tooth or more severe trauma, and, sometimes, repeated dental work.
Your dentist has identified the infection. What are your options now? You may choose to do nothing: bacteria will get to your bone through the tip of your root, causing abscess and infection. This is something you definitely don’t want. Then you may choose tooth extraction. If you do so, you will have to replace it with a dental appliance (an implant, a bridge) and this is usually more expensive and time consuming than treating your tooth. If you choose to have your tooth pulled out and do not intend to have it replaced, you should know that the empty space left will cause the other teeth to shift into that space, creating misalignment and, possibly, problems with your jaw; besides, it is more difficult to clean shifted teeth and they become susceptible to decay, gum problems and eventually lead to further tooth loss. Extraction is therefore not your best option. You should consider therapy whenever you have this option.
Root Canal Treatment
How is root canal treatment done? First, your dentist will numb the tooth with a local anesthetic to make the procedure less uncomfortable. Next, your dentist will keep the tooth clean and saliva free using a protective shield or a rubber dam.
Once the area is numb, your dentist makes an opening through the top of the tooth to clean the inside of the canals. This is done using root canal files and a cleansing solution that acts against bacteria and tooth debris. Then, the dentist will shape and prepare the inside for the filling material. A rubber-like material with a sealer is used to fill the entire length of the root canal, followed by a temporary filling applied on the tooth.
X-rays are very useful during the entire process.
Root canal therapy only solves the problem with the pulp of the tooth, but the treatment is not complete until the tooth becomes operational again. After root canal, you will need a crown or a similar dental work to make the tooth functional.
Risks Associated With Root Canal Therapy
In the days following root canal therapy, you might experience some discomfort. Follow your dentist’s recommendation on taking an over the counter pain medication. If the case, your dentist can prescribe antibiotics and prescription pain medication.
After having root canal therapy and before restoration, it is better not to chew directly on the repaired tooth, as you might cause further damage. If you delay completing the restoration, bacteria can re-infect the canal so that your dentist would have to perform therapy all over again.
Like every other treatment, root canal therapy can exceptionally lead to complications: the root could fracture, a broken file could get stuck in the canal, or cleaning and sealing could be compromised due to some anatomic particularities (such as an unusual shape of the root, a hidden root or an extra canal). However these are exceptions and you should keep in mind that there are alternative solutions to unsuccessful root canal therapy. Do not hesitate to ask your dentist.