Root Canals

Have you experienced shooting pain in your mouth when eating or drinking? Do your gums look swollen from an infection? These and other symptoms may signal substantial tooth decay that has reached a nerve in your tooth.  A root canal may be the treatment that can cure the infection and prevent loss of the tooth.

  • A Root Canal is a specialized treatment
  • It may require 2 visits over 2-5 days
  • Your tooth may or may not be saved

The much maligned root canal is a blessing when tooth decay causes an infection in the nerve of a tooth, causing excruciating pain. A root canal is generally performed by an endodontist who has specialized training in treatments that focus on the nerves or pulp that are in teeth.

Without treatment, the tissue surrounding the tooth will become infected and an abscess may form.

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Signs a Root Canal may be required

The following signs may indicate a root canal is needed:

  • Tooth sensitivity that lingers
  • Sharp pains when chewing or biting
  • Chipped or cracked teeth
  • Swollen or painful gums
  • Deep decay or darkened gums

Procedure for a Root Canal

An x-ray is taken to determine which teeth require this treatment.  Before the root canal treatment begins, a local anesthesia is given to numb the pain.  Once the mouth and jaw are numb, the endodontist will drill the decayed tooth removing the pulp while leaving as much of the tooth intact as possible and the inside of the tooth is then cleaned. (The pulp is the soft area within the center of the tooth.)

To keep the area dry and free of saliva during the treatment, a rubber dam (a sheet of rubber) is placed around the tooth.  As the work is done, water will be sprayed into the mouth area to ensure any debris is flushed away. The nerve canal can then be cleaned out and is it then packed with a synthetic material. Once this is done the treatment is then complete

If there was an infection, your dentist may put a medication inside the tooth to clear it up first before filling or your tooth may be sealed the same day it is cleaned out. If the root canal isn’t done on the same day, a temporary filling is placed in the exterior hole in the tooth to keep out saliva and food between appointments.

Recovery Expectations

After a root canal, your mouth will be numb for a couple of hours. Most people can go right back to work or other activities. You may want to wait until the numbness is gone before eating.

For the first few days following the completion of a root canal, the tooth may feel sensitive due to tissue inflammation especially if there was pain or infection before the procedure.

Postcare Instructions for Root Canals

Until your root canal procedure is completely finished with either a permanent filling or crown, try to avoid chewing with the tooth. This helps keep the area clean and may prevent a fragile tooth from breaking before it can be fully restored.

Brush, floss, and use a mouthwash as you regularly would and see your dentist at normally scheduled intervals.

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