If you have been experiencing problems with a tooth, you might be wondering, "Do I need a root canal?" Root canals are performed when the nerve or pulp of the tooth becomes infected and inflamed due to dental decay, a cracked or broken tooth, or an injury to the tooth. These things usually cause tooth pain, which can leave you looking for ways to get much-needed relief. If your dental professional recommends a root canal treatment, here is a step-by-step root canal guide of what you can expect before, during, and after the procedure.
Do I Need a Root Canal? A Step By Step Guide to Ease Your Worries
Medically Reviewed By Colgate Global Scientific Communications
Signs You May Need a Root Canal
Tooth pain is the most common symptom that might indicate the need for a root canal. The intensity of the pain can range from mild to severe. It could lessen or intensify throughout the day, or it might get worse only when you bite down on the tooth. Some people experience prolonged sensitivity to hot food or liquids. Your gums may also feel tender and swollen near the problem area.
When Is Root Canal Treatment Needed?
A dental professional performs a root canal to remove bacteria and dying or dead tissue from inside the tooth. The pulp inside the tooth can become infected with bacteria because of an injury or a severe, untreated cavity. Without treatment, the infection can cause pain and can worsen, sometimes resulting in tooth removal.
How a Root Canal is Performed: Step by Step
Treatment for a root canal usually requires two office visits which may include the following steps:
- First, a dental professional will administer local anesthesia to numb the tooth and surrounding gums. You'll feel a bit of a pinch when the needle is injected, but only for a moment. After that, you won't be able to feel anything. When the tooth is numb, the endodontist might place a dental dam, a small sheet of rubber that isolates the tooth to keep it clean and dry during the procedure.
- Your dentist will then use small tools to access the inside of the tooth after creating an opening in the top portion of the tooth.
- Next, they'll use small files to clear away the damaged pulp from the inside of the tooth. They will also use the files to shape the inner chamber of the tooth and root and might irrigate the chamber with water to ensure there isn't any infected pulp. Your dental professional might also use an antimicrobial solution to kill any remaining bacteria in the chamber and reduce the risk for further infection.
- Once the chamber is thoroughly cleaned and dried, the endodontist will fill it with a rubber-like material called gutta-percha. Then a temporary filling will be placed to close the opening in your tooth while you wait for the permanent crown.
- After a few weeks, your dental professional will finish the treatment by placing a permanent crown or a similar type of restoration on top of the tooth. Depending on the condition of your natural tooth, the dentist may need to place a small supporting post inside of the root chamber to make the crown or restoration more stable.
After the Procedure
Taking good care of your teeth and gums is a must after a root canal. Make sure to maintain a good oral care routine at home by brushing twice a day, cleaning between your teeth once a day, and keeping up with your dental cleanings and exams. You might need to schedule an additional visit with your dentist to X-ray the treated tooth and ensure that all signs of infection are gone. With excellent care and attention, a tooth treated with a root canal can stay healthy for the rest of your life. That sounds like a great incentive to keep your smile healthy!
A root canal can seem daunting at first, and the stories you hear don't help the matter. But the truth is modern dental techniques can make a root canal painless, and the procedure can help you keep that tooth for the long term.
Oral Care Center articles are reviewed by an oral health medical professional. This information is for educational purposes only. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist, physician or other qualified healthcare provider.