What It Solves
Endodontic treatment is necessary when the pulp (soft tissue inside your teeth containing blood vessels, nerves and connective tissue) becomes inflamed or diseased. During root canal treatment, your dentist or endodontist (a dentist who specializes in treating the insides of teeth) removes the diseased pulp. The pulp chamber and root canal(s) of the tooth are then cleaned and sealed. If the infected pulp is not removed, pain and swelling can result, and your tooth may have to be removed.
How Is It Done
The root canal usually takes one to three visits. First, you have dental X-rays to check the extent of damage. You also receive a local anesthetic to control pain, which may be more severe if the tooth is abscessed. Then a rubber-like sheet called a dental dam is put in your mouth to keep the tooth clean, protected and free of saliva. Decay is removed, and an opening is made through the crown of the tooth to gain access to the pulp chamber. Using small dental instruments, the infected or diseased pulp is removed. After the diseased pulp is removed, the pulp chamber and root canals are flushed and cleaned.
If the root canal requires multiple visits, a temporary filling is placed in the crown to protect the tooth and keep out debris and saliva. After cleaning and drying, it's time to fill the interior of the tooth — the empty pulp chamber and root canals. You may not need additional anesthetic for this step. If you had a temporary filling placed, that will be removed to allow access to the inside of the tooth. A sealer paste and rubber compound is used to fill the tooth, followed by a dental filling to make sure the root canals are protected from saliva.
Because the tooth typically has a large filling or is weakened from extensive decay, it needs to be protected from future damage and returned to normal function. This is usually done by placing a crown — a realistic-looking artificial tooth. After your root canal, your restored tooth with the new crown should work normally and look cosmetically pleasing. If you follow good dental and oral hygiene, your restored tooth could last a lifetime.