Root Canals: What You Should Know

So you’ve been told you need a root canal.  You probably have a lot of questions. Here are some facts about root canals and the procedure that may help you feel more comfortable.

Tooth Anatomy: the Root Canal

What is the root canal? The center space of your tooth, known as the pulp chamber, goes from the surface down the length of the root all the way to the tip. This is called the “canal” or “root canal.”  Human teeth can have from one to four root canals depending on the tooth’s anatomy. Molars, for example, may have two to four canals, while incisors generally have only one.

Reasons for a Root Canal

The tiny canals contain the pulp, or nerve of the tooth.  Any infection or trauma of the nerve will cause need for root canal therapy, also called a Root Canal. Possible reasons for root canal therapy are:

Tooth decay invades, or penetrates the enamel and then the dentin to reach the pulp
A tooth becomes abscessed, or infected from decay
Trauma, such as a chipped or broken tooth exposes the nerve
A tooth is dying due to age or past trauma that has escalated, making root canal therapy necessary

Root Canal: The Procedure

A root canal can be done in a single or in multiple visits, depending on the severity of your tooth’s condition. Your dentist will be able to tell you upon initial diagnosis how many visits it will take. We will also prescribe an antibiotic for you to take prior to the procedure if there is an infection present.

The first step is to numb the tooth that is being worked on with a local anesthetic.
A dental x-ray called a “periapical x-ray” will be taken to assist the doctor during the procedure.
Next, a dam will be placed over your mouth. This is to keep the tooth very dry while the doctor works and also keeps the chemical tooth disinfectant from entering your mouth during the procedure.
Once the dam is in place, the doctor will drill a small hole to reach the nerve so that the nerve and any infected tissue can be removed. After the root is removed, final x-rays will be taken to ensure the entire root was retrieved.
Finally, the tooth will be finished with a permanent filling; often dentist will recommend placing a crown over the affected tooth.

Root Canal Recovery

Your affected tooth may be sore after the local anesthetic has worn off.  The dentist may prescribe pain medication to take at home and additional antibiotics are sometimes recommended.