Root canal is a lay persons’ term for endodontic therapy or root canal therapy. Root canal therapy is necessary when the pulp (aka “nerve”) inside the tooth becomes irreversibly damaged or infected. This irreversible damage is a result of combined injuries that occur over the life of the tooth (decay, trauma, multiple restorations). Root canal therapy is the removal of the entire pulp throughout the root canal system (a tooth can have several roots and a canal or two within those roots), the cleaning and shaping of the canal system, and filling the canals with a polyester synthetic root canal filling and a dental sealer.
If you have any conditions as stated below, you might need a root canal treatment:
• Sensitivity to hot or cold that lingers
• Discomfort when chewing or biting
• Dull ache or severe pain
• Discomfort that wakes you up at night
• Your dentist has diagnosed the need for endodontic treatment either by clinical exam or xray.
If you answered yes to any of the above, you might very well need a root canal.
Be aware not all teeth that are in need of root canal therapy will cause pain. It is possible to be pain-free and still need a root canal.
Dentist will examine the x-ray and the tooth, then administer a local anesthetics. After the tooth is numbed, a small protective sheet, called a dental rubber dam is placed to isolate the tooth. An opening will be made in the crown of the tooth and small instruments will be used to clean the canals and to shape the canal spaces for filling. Once the canals have been adequately cleaned and shaped, the canals will then be filled with a polyester synthetic root canal filling and sealer. A temporary filling is then placed to close the opening. Your dentist will remove the temporary filling before the tooth is restored.
With modern techniques and varied local anesthetic solutions it is rare to have any sensation in the tooth during treatment. For the first few days after treatment, It is normal for your tooth to be sensitive to biting. This discomfort can be relieved with over-the-counter or prescription medications in order to control normal post-treatment discomfort.
In most cases the discomfort will subside dramatically within the first 24-48 hours. Any sensitivity to cold, hot or even breathing air “in” will be gone after your visit. Nevertheless, you may experience mild discomfort to pressure that could last for several days after treatment. Taking over-the-counter anti-inflammatory analgesics such as ibuprofen (aka Advil, Motrin), naproxen (aka Aleve) or aspirin (aka Excedrin) usually relieves this discomfort. Tylenol has been proven not to be as effective as ibuprofen and related medicines, because it does not have the anti-inflammatory component.
The most common predictor of post-treatment pain is pre-treatment pain. If the tooth is already hurting the root canal procedure will remove the cause and allow healing to begin. During the first 3-4 days we will prescribe an analgesic regimen that should allow you to begin healing pain-free.
The most common complaint is tenderness to touch, bite, tapping or chewing on the tooth. It is always best to chew on the other side until a permanent restoration replaces the temporary restoration.
The single most important benefit of root canal therapy is that you keep your tooth. Extraction may lead to other dental problems. For instance, drifting of teeth, bite problems, TMJ discomfort, and the need to treat adjacent teeth that do not otherwise need dental treatment in order to restore the missing tooth. No matter how effective modern tooth replacements are – and they can be very effective – nothing is a good as your natural tooth.