Root Canals

What is a root canal?

A root canal is a procedure performed when the nerve chamber of the tooth is infected or inflamed. The infection or inflammation can be from a variety of causes, such as: deep cavity, a crack, or trauma to the tooth. If left untreated (and if there is pulpal (nerve) inflammation), it can cause significant pain or lead to a tooth abscess. 

How do I know if I need a root canal?

Top signs of needing root canals:

  • Sensitivity to hot or cold
  • Persistent pain, dull ache
  • Dark discoloration of the tooth
  • Deep cavity
  • Swelling and/or drainage

Not all teeth are symptomatic. Sometimes there are no associated symptoms or pain and you may still need a root canal. This is why it is important to see your dentist regularly to make sure you are in the clear and prevent this from occurring.

What is the process of root canals? Are they painful?

Root canals are often times performed in one visit, however if the tooth is severely infected it may be completed in two.

Root canal process:

  1. Anesthetic is placed so you are fully numb and comfortable. You should not feel any pain throughout the procedure, but pressure may be evident.
  2. An opening is made in the crown (top) portion of the tooth.
  3. Infected tissue is removed from the pulpal chamber and the canals by cleaning and shaping the roots.
  4. Canals are filled with a permanent material called gutta percha and a sealer.
  5. The opening is closed with a core build-up (filling) material. Sometimes a post may be inserted for extra support.
  6. A crown is placed over the tooth for protection and proper seal.

Do I need a crown after root canals?

A crown is highly recommended after a root canal is complete. This is because an unrestored tooth is weak and susceptible to fracture. Additionally, if left unrestored for a long period of time, reinfection is possible. Sometimes on front teeth, a crown may not be necessary at first if there is enough healthy tooth structure. This is because the forces placed on front teeth are not as excessive as the weight bearing molars.

Will I have pain after the procedure?

Usually after a root canal you may experience some sensitivity, especially if there was pain or an infection before the procedure. Most times you will feel pressure and is recommended to chew on the opposite side and avoid direct contact on the treated tooth. Everyone perceives pain differently so prescription medications are given to relieve any discomfort you may have.