What is a Root Canal?
A root canal is a procedure in which the nerve and “pulp” inside the tooth is removed and the canal is cleaned out and filled. It is needed when the pulp becomes contaminated by bacteria from a cavity that has become too large or when the tooth experiences trauma. If the pulp is allowed to remain in this state, even if there is no pain, the tissues around the tooth root can become infected often leading to pain and swelling, or “abscess.” Occasionally this process occurs without pain and you may notice some drainage around or near the tooth. If allowed to continue, this process will damage the bone that holds the tooth in the jaw and it may have to be pulled.
Root canals may be done in a single or multiple visits, depending on the situation. Your tooth will be numbed in the exact same way as a routine filling. We will protect your tooth from saliva and bacteria in your mouth with a thin sheet of rubber. Similar to a filling, the dental drill is used briefly to make an opening into the pulp of the tooth. We will then remove the nerve and tissue within this space using a series of files. An antimicrobial medication may be used to help eliminate any remaining bacteria. If the procedure will be done in 2 separate visits, we may place a temporary filling to protect the canal space in between appointments. Upon return, we will use a special rubber-like filling material to fill the canal space. In most cases, a crown will be needed to strengthen the tooth. If enough tooth structure has been lost to decay, a post may need to be inserted into the canal prior to make a crown.
Why not Pull the Tooth?
Removing a tooth is often the less expensive option and many times a viable option, but it is important to consider the risks involved and the costs later if you decide to replace the tooth. Removing a tooth without replacing it can cause the teeth around the site and opposing it to shift, potentially altering your bite. No replacement option, including an implant, looks, feels or functions like your natural tooth. Even if your tooth needs a crown after the root canal procedure, it is often less expensive than an implant or even a bridge.