Root canal is a dental procedure that is used to treat and save a severely infected or decayed tooth. During the treatment dentists remove the infected nerve and pulp, clean the tooth cavity and seal it with filling material. If the decayed tooth is not treated in-time, the tissue surrounding the tooth become infected and abscesses may form.
What is a root canal?
The term root canal describes the cavity that is located at the center of the tooth. The soft area within the root canal is called pulp chamber or the pulp and the tooth’s nerve lies in the root canal. The nerve has nothing to do with the functionality or health of the tooth and has no effect even after the tooth comes out of the gums. The only primary function associated with the tooth nerve is the sensitivity which means it provides the sensation of cold or hot. Hence, the absence or the presence of a nerve does not affect the daily functioning of the tooth.
Need for removing dental pulp
When there is a damage associated with the tooth’s pulp or nerve tissue, it breaks down and the bacteria begins to accumulate inside the pulp chamber. The decayed debris and bacteria can cause abscessed (pus filled pocket that forms at the tooth’s root ends) tooth or infection. An abscess occurs only when the infection spreads all the way to the ends of the tooth roots. Also, an infection in the tooth canal can cause:
- bone loss around the root tips.
- Swelling that may spread to other areas of the face and neck.
- A hole can form through the side of the tooth with drainage through the cheek or into the gums with drainage into the skin.
A tooth’s pulp or nerve can become infected, inflamed and irritated due to repeated dental procedures on the tooth, deep decay, large fillings, a chip or crack in the tooth or trauma to the face.
Signs which indicate the need of root canal therapy
Signs that indicate that a root canal is needed include:
- prolonged sensitivity or pain to cold or hot temperatures.
- Severe tooth ache upon application of pressure or chewing.
- Tenderness and swelling in the surrounding gums.
- Discoloration of the tooth.
- A recurring or persistent pimple on the gums.
Root canal procedure
Dentists who are specialized in the diagnosis, prevention and treatment of the injuries and disease of the dental pulp or the tooth nerve will perform the root canal treatment. The choice of the type of dentist depends on the degree of difficulty of the root canal needed in your tooth and the comfort level in working on your tooth.
- The initial step in the treatment procedure is to take an x-ray to determine the shape of the root canals and check for signs of infection in the surrounding bone.
- A local anesthesia is used to numb the area around the tooth.
- An access hole will be drilled into the tooth.
- The decayed nerve tissue, pulp along with bacteria and the related debris is removed from the tooth.
- The cleaning process is accomplished using the root canal files.
- A series of files of increasing diameter are placed subsequently into the access hole.
Also, sodium hypochlorite or water is used periodically to flush away the dirt and debris.
- Once the tooth is cleaned thoroughly, it is sealed.
- If the root canal is not done on the day itself, a temporary filling is placed in the tooth’s exterior hole to keep out the contaminants.
- In the next step, the interior of the tooth is filled by using a sealer paste and a rubber compound. To fill the exterior hole that is created at the beginning, a filling is placed.
The final step may involve restoration of the tooth. Because, tooth that needs a root canal often has a large filling, extensive decay etc. A crown or other restoration objects often need to be placed on the tooth to protect its structure preventing it from breaking and restore its normal functionality.