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Root Canal Therapy

A root canal is needed when the nerve (or pulp) of a tooth is affected by decay or infection.  Root canals are the treatment of choice to save a tooth that would otherwise die and have to be removed.  In order to save the tooth, the pulp (the soft tissue inside the tooth consisting of nerves and blood vessels) is removed along with any decay and infected tissue.  The resulting space is then cleaned, disinfected, and filled with a special, medicated dental material. After completing the root canal, the tooth will then be restored with  a crown.


Signs that a tooth may require a Root Canal

  • An abscess (pimple) on the gum

  • Sensitivity to hot and cold

  • Severe tooth ache pain

  • Swelling and/or tenderness around a tooth

  • The tooth turning black

  • A radioluscency (dark area at the tip of the root) on an x-ray

  • An exposed nerve due to traumatic injury

What is involved in Root Canal Therapy ?

Root canal therapy can require one or more appointments and can be performed by a dentist or endodontists (a root canal specialist). While the tooth is numb a rubber dam (sheet of rubber) may be placed around the tooth to keep it dry and free of saliva.  An access opening is made in the top of the tooth and a series of files are placed into the tooth to remove the pulp, nerve and bacteria. At this point, medication is placed into the tooth and sealed in place with a temporary filling.  At the next appointment, the temporary filling will be removed and the root canal process will continue.  The dentist may decide to complete the root canal at the first visit rather than place a temporary filling. Once the tooth has been completely cleaned and disinfected, the root canal will be completed by placing a filling material into the root, sealing it and preventing a reinfection.  After treatment, your tooth may still be sensitive, but this will subside as the inflammation diminishes and the tooth has healed.  In addition, all teeth the have had a root canal should have a crown (cap) placed on the tooth.  This will protect the tooth, preventing it from breaking, and restoring it to full function.


Although on occasion, a tooth will have to be retreated due to a new infection, a root canal is a highly successful procedure that usually lasts a lifetime.

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