Root Canal Treatment
Root canal treatment (also called Endodontics) is needed when the pulp (tooth nerve) inside your tooth becomes infected through tooth decay or damaged by an injury to your mouth. This infection may spread through the root canal system, which could eventually lead to an abscess, causing a great deal of discomfort. If root canal treatment is not carried out, the tooth may need to be taken out.
What are the signs of needing Root Canal Treatment?
Signs to look for include pain, prolonged sensitivity to heat or cold, tenderness to touch and chewing, discoloration of the tooth, and swelling, drainage and tenderness in the lymph nodes as well as nearby bone and gum tissues. Sometimes, however, there are no symptoms.
How does Root Canal Treatment Save the Tooth?
The dentist or endodontist removes the inflamed or infected pulp, carefully cleans and shapes the inside of the root canal, then fills and seals the space. Afterwards, a crown or other restoration on the tooth is placed to protect and restore it to full function. After restoration, the tooth continues to function like any other tooth.
Will I feel pain during the procedure?
Many endodontic procedures are performed to relieve the pain of toothaches caused by pulp inflammation or infection. With modern techniques and anaesthetics, most patients report that they are comfortable during the procedure.
For the first few days after treatment, your tooth may feel sensitive, especially if there was pain or infection before the procedure. This discomfort can be relieved with over-the-counter or prescription medications. Follow your dentist’s instructions carefully.
Your tooth may continue to feel slightly different from your other teeth for some time after your endodontic treatment is completed. This is considered normal. However, if you have severe pain or pressure or pain that lasts more than a few days, let us know.
Root Canal treatment is often performed in at least 2 visits for single-rooted teeth (i.e., front teeth), and at 3 or more visits for two or more rooted teeth (premolars and molars). It generally involves the following steps:
1. STAGE 1: The dentist examines and x-rays the tooth, then administers local anaesthetic. After the tooth is numb, the dentist places a small protective sheet called a “rubber dam” over the area to isolate the tooth and keep it clean and free of saliva during the procedure. The dentist then makes an opening in the crown of the tooth. Each root and root canal is accessed and explored, and much of the pulp/nerve is removed at this stage. The canal is cleaned with irrigants. Dr. Lee uses Waterlase laser as an adjunct to achieve a more penetrating disinfection of the root canal walls.
2. STAGE 2: The canal is shaped optimally for better cleaning, and is cleaned and dried again, in preparation for the obturation stage next visit.
3. STAGE 3: After the space is cleaned and shaped, the dentist fills the root canals with a biocompatible material, usually a rubber-like material called gutta-percha. The gutta-percha is placed with an adhesive cement to ensure complete sealing of the root canals. In most cases, a temporary filling is placed to close the opening. The temporary filling will be removed by your dentist before the tooth is restored.
4. After the final stage, your newly root canal treated tooth must have a crown or other restoration placed on the tooth to protect and restore it to full function.
If the tooth lacks sufficient structure to hold the restoration in place, your dentist may place a post inside the tooth. Ask us for more details about the specific restoration planned for your tooth.
What To Expect After Root Canal Treatment
It is normal to feel some tenderness in the area for a few days after your root canal treatment as your body undergoes the natural healing process. You may also feel some tenderness in your jaw from keeping it open for an extended period of time. These symptoms are temporary and usually respond very well to over-the-counter pain medications. It is important for you to follow the instructions on how to take these medications. Remember that narcotic medications, if prescribed, may make you drowsy, and caution should be exercised in operating dangerous machinery or driving a car after taking them.
Your tooth may continue to feel slightly different from your other teeth for some time after your root canal treatment has been completed. However, if you have severe pain or pressure that lasts more than a few days, please let us know.
Guidelines for Post-Treatment Care
- Do not eat anything until the numbness in your mouth wears off. This will prevent you from biting your cheek or tongue.
- Do not chew or bite on the treated tooth until you have had it restored by your dentist.
- Be sure to brush and floss your teeth as you normally would.
- If the opening in your tooth was restored with a temporary filling material, it is not unusual for a thin layer to wear off in-between appointments. However, if you think the entire filling has come out, contact your dentist.
- Contact your dentist right away if you develop any of the following:
- a visible swelling inside or outside of your mouth;
- an allergic reaction to medication, including rash, hives or itching (nausea is not an allergic reaction);
- a return of original symptoms; or
- your bite feels uneven.
Taking Care of Your Tooth
Root canal treatment is only one step in returning your tooth to full function. A proper final restoration of the tooth (i.e., crown) is extremely important in ensuring long-term success.
Contact your dentist as soon as possible to arrange your next appointment. If your tooth is being treated in more than one visit by an endodontist, do not return to your dentist for the final restoration until the root canal treatment is completed.
What the Future Holds
The tooth that has had appropriate endodontic treatment followed by a proper restoration can last as long as your other natural teeth. After the tooth has been restored, you need only practice good oral hygiene, including brushing, flossing, regular checkups and cleanings.
Your dentist or endodontist may periodically x-ray the tooth to ensure that healing has occurred. Occasionally, a tooth that has undergone endodontic treatment does not heal or pain continues. At times, the tooth may become painful or diseased months or even years after successful treatment. When this occurs, treatment options may include: re-treatment of root canal therapy (usually by a specialist endodontist), or extraction of the tooth and subsequent replacement by either dental implants, crown and bridge, or dentures.