Root canals are a dental procedure that has earned quite the reputation over the years for being invasive, painful, and potentially harmful. In reality, how we perform root canals has grown much since the early days of dental intervention. Now, the endodontic treatment is a routine procedure that is minimally invasive and usually normally no more painful than regular dental work.
In the article below, we will look into the different steps that go into a root canal procedure to help educate and familiarize you with the process, and later, where to find local specialists for your own dental care.
When You Need a Root Canal
Best performed by an experienced dentist or endodontist, root canals are a procedure which helps clear away decay, inflammation, or infection from the inner tooth. To get a better understanding of where these areas are, let us look at an example of the tooth’s anatomy.
As seen in the chart above, the tooth consists of many layers, with the nerve endings and pulp housed deep within the root of the tooth. When you need a root canal, it indicates that decay or inflammation reached this lower region of the tooth, potentially extending all the way to the very bottom of the canal itself. If left untreated, the infected tooth could go on to create other challenges such as infection of the jaw and abscesses.
To catch the signs of deep decay as early as possible, regular dental treatment is needed, including oral exams, full cleanings, and regular x-rays. Together, these preventative strategies can help you avoid a root canal all together, or, catch one before the decay becomes increasingly severe.
What Happens During a Root Canal?
As seen in the above graphic, a root canal aims to clear out infections occurring in the pulp chamber and root canals themselves. This is done in a series of steps much like a cavity filling and is usually completed in a single treatment.
- In preparation for the root canal itself, the area surrounding the tooth will be numbed with local anesthetic, cleaned, and isolated with a dental dam. This helps keep the tooth clean, dry, and away from saliva while your endodontist is performing the procedure.
- After the tooth is sectioned off, your endodontist will drill a hole into the crown of your tooth, giving them access to the inner tooth. This hole is slowly widened to provide access to allow for better visibility and maneuverability.
- Next, your doctor will begin to rid the chamber and root canals of any infected pulp. Often as part of this procedure, they will also slowly widen and shape the canals in order to make room for a proper filling in the later steps.
- Once initial cleaning has been completed, your doctor will flush the inside of your tooth out with an antiseptic treatment. This ensures any remaining bacteria are erredicated while also cleaning the inner tooth of debris.
- Once flushed, your endodontist fills the tooth. Because these fillings are extensive, they will generally use two different materials. For the root canals, a natural material called gutta percha will fill in the gaps left behind. Then, a permanent filling is added to fill the remainder of the pulp chamber and the top of the tooth.
- If needed, your endodontist will allow your general dentist to perform more extensive reconstructie work such as crowns and additional cosmetic work. (However, note that these are only needed in the most severe cases where the tooth is at risk for crumbling due to severe structural damage.)
As mentioned,a root canal treatment procedure is commonly completed in a single office visit. However, there are some cases which are severe and necessitate a second visit. In these instances, the top of the tooth will be temporarily sealed so as to protect against saliva and tooth debris, but this protection is temporary to allow for easy removal by our dentist.
If you find yourself in a position where your procedure may take more than one appointment, it is important to practice good hygiene and disturb the tooth as little as possible. This includes avoiding chewing on that side of the mouth.
It’s Always Best to Save the Tooth
For many, alternatives to root canals are either tooth extraction or costly reconstructive measures such as bridges and implants. When possible however, it’s always cheaper, safer, and healthier to save your natural tooth. This is why at EVDP, we fully assess our patients to ensure they are helping them choose the least invasive procedure to bring back their healthy smile.
Established in the 1980s, we are a trusted community staple for many generations of clients in our home Mesa, Arizona. If you need a simple cleaning or perhaps are looking for more extensive care, don’t hesitate to give us a call at: 480-838-3033