Root Canal Therapy

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.


  • Angela Jackson 7 April 2011 at 5:59

    What if the denist drills through the root of the tooth? The denist possibly drilled through the root of the tooth, but said this can and sometimes does happen and that it will not compromise the root canal.

  • Medicul Stomatolog 7 April 2011 at 10:34

    Well for a small infection usually the canal is treated up to 0.5mm above the root. If the infection is strong (there is an intense smell) then it is mandatory to drill through the root and disinfect in all places, even below the tooth.

    In the first case sometimes it happens that the root is drilled as well. This is because even with the most modern apex finder it is not 100% sure where the tip of the root is located. It is true, the treatment will not be compromised. However there are chances that a drilled tip will develop in time a dental granuloma. This would require another root canal treatment or even an apical resection. We explained the apical resection under Oral Surgery section

  • Sarah Skeen 13 August 2011 at 23:32

    I had a root canal a week ago. A file broke off in the canal that they were unable to retrieve. It goes up a tiny bit out of the root. I am now starting to experience pain. Is it due to the file or is this normal? Thanks!

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