A root canal is a treatment used to save a tooth that is severely decayed. This can be used to treat pain and infection in a tooth.
What is a root canal?
A root canal is a treatment to save a severely decayed or broken tooth. This is also known as endodontic therapy and is used as the last resort to save a tooth. This may be necessary for a patient if a tooth is fractured or decayed and the pulp of the tooth is disturbed.
A patient may need this procedure if they have pain when chewing, drinking hot or cold beverages, and/or constant pain with no stimulus. Occasionally treatment may be needed even if the patient experiences no symptoms because an infection is present. An x-ray can show the beginnings of an infection which can cause irreversible damage to the tooth and lead to further infection and pain if left untreated.
The patient will first be given a local anesthetic to ensure there will be no discomfort during the procedure. The pulp is cleaned and disinfected. Then a filling material is placed and sealed. A root canal can be thought of as an “extra deep dental filling.” This treatment will give the patient lasting pain relief in the tooth.
Existing root canals may become reinfected if a cavity forms in the tooth. Retreating with a new root canal is an option. The existing filling is removed, disinfected and new root canal filling is inserted. In most cases, a new crown is needed to ensure that the filling remains sealed. This prevents reinfection of the tooth roots which could cause pain and infection. If your tooth was severely broken down prior to treatment, a dental post may be needed in addition to the crown for extra stability.
When Can I Crown the Tooth?
It is advised to wait a few days after a root canal to crown the tooth. This is to ensure that the treatment is healing well. In most cases a crown is needed on the treated tooth to assure that the root canal filling remains sealed and uninfected.
Root Canal Recovery Tips
You can resume a normal diet after treatment. Just be mindful that the treated tooth is often not as strong as a natural healthy tooth. You should avoid chewing hard foods such as nuts, hard candies, and ice.
Root Canal vs. Dental Extraction
A root canal is ideal if enough of the tooth remains to be saved. In most cases it is best to save natural teeth whenever possible. If the tooth is too broken or decayed to receive a crown then a tooth extraction might be recommended.