When a tooth becomes damaged, either from a deep cavity or an injury, the inner side of the tooth becomes infected. An infection causes damage to the nerve and blood vessel network within the tooth. If the infection is left untreated, it can cause a further infection which will damage bone around the tooth resulting in painful swelling.
Inside each of our teeth, underneath the white enamel and the hard layer known as dentin, is pulp - which is soft tissue. Within this pulp are connective tissue, nerves, and blood vessels. As the tooth develops, the pulp creates the hard tissue surrounding the tooth.
The pulp connects to tissue surrounding the root of the tooth and extends from the root’s tip all the way to the tooth’s crown. While a tooth is growing and developing, the pulp plays a vital role in the health of the tooth, however, once the tooth is mature it no longer needs the pulp to survive as it is nourished by the surrounding tissue.
Some of the signs that a tooth may require root canal therapy are if they are sensitive to heat and cold, tender to touch or chew on, painful, discolored or swollen, lymph nodes have drainage and are sore, or the bone and gums are tender.
During the process of root canal therapy, the endodontist will eliminate the infected pulp, clean inside, shape the root canal, and fill in and seal up the tooth. Once this is done, you will go back to your dentist who will fit the tooth gaps with a crown which will both protect it and allow the tooth to function normally.
The following is a step by step guide to root canal therapy:
1. First, X-rays are taken of the tooth and the tooth is examined by the endodontist. Following this, a local anesthetic is given and once the tooth has become numb, a dental dam, which is a protective cover, is placed over the area, isolating the tooth and keeping it clean and saliva-free for the procedure to take place.
2. An opening is made in the tooth’s crown. The endodontist uses tiny instruments to clean away all the pulp from the pulp chamber and the root canal, and then shape the space ready to fill.
3. The root canals are then filled with Gutta-percha, a biocompatible, rubber-like substance. An adhesive cement is used along with the Gutta-percha to make sure the root canals are completely sealed. A temporary filling is then placed over the opening of the tooth.
4. Now that the root canal therapy is complete, you will visit your dentist to remove the temporary filling and fit the tooth will a permanent crown or another type of restoration. This will protect the tooth while restoring function.
Due to the aesthetics and the modern techniques used throughout the root canal procedure, most patients are pain-free and comfortable while the treatment takes place.
Following the treatment, you may feel some sensitivity in the tooth for the first couple of days, particularly so if you were in pain and/or had an infection prior to the procedure. Your dentist may prescribe a medication for this or recommend an over-the-counter remedy.
We have treated many patients who have needed root canals. If your tooth is very sensitive, call A Northwest Dental at (206) 362-2500 to see if a root canal is right for you.