A root canal is a restorative endodontic treatment for a tooth with damaged or infected dental pulp. The dental pulp is the soft inside layer of the tooth that becomes damaged when decay is left untreated and penetrates deeper into the tooth or due to dental trauma.
This can cause a tooth infection that will continue to spread and worsen until the infected pulp is removed. The canals are also cleaned to remove any remaining bacteria. A root canal involves scraping away the infected pulp and replacing it with a filling to save the tooth.
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This procedure has a 95% success rate.
At your consultation, Dr. Kirkegaard will examine your tooth and take x-rays to look for signs of an infection.
We will numb your mouth with a local anesthetic before making an access hole into your tooth to reveal the dental pulp. We’ll then scrape away the infected pulp down to the root.
Each canal in the tooth will need to be cleaned, disinfected, and reshaped.
A gutta-percha filling is then placed inside of the tooth to replace the dental pulp.
A crown may be placed over your tooth to protect it from damage and reinfection.
In an anterior (front tooth), the teeth are thinner and contain fewer canals. This means they require less anesthetic, a shorter amount of time, fewer appointments, and may not need a dental crown. An access hole is drilled into the back of the tooth, which makes reaching the dental pulp more complex.
The posterior (back) teeth are the rear molars which can contain up to 4 canals per tooth. Root canal therapy in these teeth may require multiple appointments to thoroughly clean all of the canals.
An access hole is drilled into the chewing surface of the tooth. While root canals in posterior teeth are more common, all canals must be detected and cleaned to prevent root canal failure.
A dental crown is usually placed over a molar to protect it from damage from chewing forces and reinfection now that the tooth is vulnerable.
Regular flossing allows you to clean an additional 40% of your tooth surface.
The aftercare following a root canal is minimal and the most you will notice from your tooth is some slight tenderness or sensitivity in the next few days. You can take anti-inflammatory pain medication to help with this as it subsides.
Other than that, eat soft foods for a few days and avoid hard, crunchy, or sticky foods. Wait until the anesthetic wears off to eat or drink hot liquids. Smoking and alcohol should be avoided while you heal.
Brush and floss your teeth like you normally would but try not to disturb the tooth that received the root canal. For the first 24 hours, you should rest and keep your head elevated to reduce swelling.
Many things can happen if you don’t treat a tooth infection, but none of them are good. The infection can spread to the surrounding teeth, putting the rest of your smile in jeopardy. At worst, it can spread to your bloodstream and cause a fatal case of sepsis.
Your only alternative to root canal treatment is an extraction, which will leave you without a tooth. In that case, you will need to spend money and time on a tooth replacement so your teeth don’t shift, cause bone loss, and change your facial structure.
Over 90% of American adults have had a cavity at some point in their lives.