A root canal treatment is a dental procedure used to treat infection inside of a tooth. The infection is caused by bacteria in the mouth invading the tooth, and can be triggered by:
If left untreated an infected tooth can become worse, and the infection spread to the jawbone with serious consequences. The tooth will then need to be removed.
A root canal is primarily performed to repair and save a badly damaged or infected tooth. The procedure involves removing damaged pulp, cleaning and disinfecting the area, and then filling and sealing it up. A root canal will require multiple visits to your dentist to complete the process. The term "root canal" comes from cleaning the canals inside the tooth’s root.
X-rays of the painful tooth will be taken so that your dentist can understand the root structure of the tooth and the extent of the problem.
A local anesthetic will be applied to numb the tooth and reduce the amount of pain and discomfort during the procedure.
Your dentist will drill into the tooth and gain access to the pulp. The pulp will then be removed. If you have a dental abscess, this can be dealt with at the same time.
The canals of the tooth will be cleaned and enlarged. The canals are widened using a series of small files, so that the canals can be properly filled once the process is finished. Front teeth usually have a single root, but the molar teeth will have a number of roots which will each need to be treated.
Preparing the root canals can take several hours to complete, and once completed it may be necessary to place some medication into the canals to ensure that all of the bacteria are killed. The tooth will be temporarily sealed to allow time for the medication to work. Antibiotics may need to be given based on the severity of the infection.
The temporary filling and medication inside the tooth will be removed. The root canal will then be filled using an inert material, typically gutta-percha, and then cemented closed to prevent re-infection.
A crown, or dental filling may need to be completed above the root canal to protect the tooth. In some cases a root-treated tooth may darken over time. Your dentist may be able to suggest suitable tooth whitening products to improve the discoloration.