The term “root canal” refers to the space in each tooth that houses the nerves or pulp of the tooth. We also commonly use the term to refer to a procedure known as endodontic treatment, or the cleaning out of infected or damaged pulp and permanent sealing of the affected tooth.
Typically, symptoms that may indicate the need for a root canal may include:
- Severe toothache pain upon chewing or application of pressure.
- Prolonged sensitivity / pain to heat or cold temperatures (after the hot or cold has been removed)
- Discoloration or darkening of the tooth
- Swelling and tenderness in the nearby gums
- A persistent or recurring pimple on the gums
When a tooth’s nerve tissue breaks down or is infected, it can cause these symptoms. Nerve damage can lead to an abscess, or a pus-filled pocket that forms at the ends of the roots of the tooth. Untreated, an abscess can lead to:
Swelling and infection that may spread to other areas of the face, neck, or head
Bone loss around the tip of the root
Drainage problems extending outward from the root, which can further infect the gums or skin of the cheek
So, it is vital that if you are experiencing any of the above symptoms, that you have the affected tooth or teeth examined for the possibility of an abscess.
Completing the treatment can take one or two visits—if the tooth doesn’t require major restorative work—or more, if it requires a crown or bridge.
On your first visit, Brian will x-ray the affected tooth to determine the shape of the root canal and if there are any signs of infection in the surrounding bone. After placing a rubber dam around the tooth to keep it dry and free of saliva during treatment, Brian will drill an access hole into the tooth, and then clean out the infected pulp and bacteria.
Depending on the condition of the tooth, Brian will either fill and seal the cleaned root chamber on the first appointment, or fill the chamber with medication to clear it up in preparation for the next appointment. If so, Brian will put a temporary filling into the exterior hole to keep out contaminants like saliva and food.
If there is a second appointment, Brian will fill the interior of the tooth with a sealer paste and rubber compound called gutta percha. A permanent filling will seal the access hole. Unless further restoration of the tooth is required, this will be the last appointment.
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