What is a Root Canal?

A root canal is a dental procedure for treating serious tooth decay in the root of the tooth. The root is the soft tissue in the center of the tooth that can become damaged or diseased for many reasons. Prior to performing a root canal, a dentist will first try other treatment methods to repair the damaged root. The purpose of a root canal procedure is to remove the decayed or damaged root in order to save the tooth. Below is more information describing the root canal procedure and explaining how it may be the best treatment to save your damaged tooth.

When is a Root Canal Treatment Needed?

Damage to the tooth root can be caused by a number of things. A cavity, fracture or crack in the tooth, or an oral injury can all cause root damage. If you had an accident or injury recently that involved your teeth, it is important to visit your dentist as soon as possible to make sure that the injury will not lead to infection or damage to the tooth root. If a damaged tooth root is left untreated it can lead to more severe complications, such as an infection in the jawbone or an abscess. Tooth abscess are very painful and can cause permanent damage to the bone and gums.

The root canal procedure

A root canal procedure is usually performed in several steps. From start to finish, the treatment may require multiple visits to the dentist. The steps involved in the root canal procedure include:

  • Step 1: The dentist will start by drilling a hole in the tooth to access the disease or damaged root. Where the hole is drilled depends on which tooth needs treated. For damaged front teeth, the hole is commonly made in the back of the tooth. For back teeth, the hole will be made in the top of the tooth.
  • Step 2: Once the hole has been made in the tooth, the damaged root can be removed. The dentist will clean out the entire inside of the tooth, or the canal, by scraping out damaged root and treating the inside with chemicals to kill bacteria. The goal of this cleaning process is to minimize future risk of tooth decay.
  • Step 3: After the canal cleaning process, the tooth needs to be filled. At this point, the dentist may decide to wait before placing a permanent filling in the tooth. If they decide to wait, the dentist will insert a temporary filling to keep the tooth safe.
  • Step 4: The last step will depend on the condition of the tooth and the location of the hole. If the tooth is not healthy or the hole is visible, the dentist may decide to place an artificial crown over the tooth to improve stability and to keep the tooth safe.
    The root canal procedure may be critical to save a damaged or diseased tooth. A successful root canal may help to ensure a tooth will last for a lifetime without the need for further repair or treatment.

How painful is a root canal?