What to Expect from Root Canal Therapy

A man and woman with full, healthy smilesMany dental patients have heard the term “root canal,” even if they’ve never had one themselves. Because of the toothache patients tend to experience prior to root canal treatment, there is often a negative connotation attached to the procedure. However, the treatment itself can help patients preserve their previously decayed teeth and enjoy a strong, pain-free bite once more.

Along with our cosmetic and general dentistry options, our Manhattan office provides effective, comprehensive restorative treatment for nearly any dental problem. We want to help our patients maintain and restore their dental health, making root canal therapy an invaluable option for patients with advanced decay. If you suspect you may need this procedure in the near future, take a moment to learn exactly what a root canal entails.

What Is a Root Canal?

Strictly speaking, the root canal is a thin passageway within a tooth’s roots that contains nerves and dental pulp, the soft material responsible for cell regeneration within a tooth. These soft tissues connect the center of the tooth to the rest of the body, thereby making the canal a vital part of the tooth and its health. When the roots or dental pulp become infected, the tooth is not just weakened - its entire health is compromised, as is any surrounding gum and bone tissue. In order to prevent tooth loss and the further spread of infection, root canal therapy must be performed to clean out the canal. In some circles, the nomenclature for this procedure is simply shortened to a “root canal.”           

When Is Root Canal Therapy Necessary?

Unlike dental fillings, which are usually sufficient for cavities within a tooth’s crown, root canal treatment must be performed when infection reaches the roots of a tooth. This tends to occur when a cavity spreads from the center of a tooth downward, but may also result from deeply infected gums or recurrent decay from previous cavities. Hopefully, your dentist will be able to spot the potential infection of roots before it occurs or at its earliest point. But if you believe you may be currently suffering from infected roots, be on the lookout for the following symptoms:

  • Moderate to severe toothache, especially below the gums
  • Tooth discoloration, especially near the gum line
  • Tooth sensitivity to hot or cold temperatures
  • Swollen or tender gums
  • An abscess (like a pimple) within the gums

Still, the only way to know the extent of a problem is to visit your dentist. By using X-ray images to examine the health of your teeth and their roots, your dentist will be able to determine what course of action is needed.

What Does Root Canal Therapy Entail?

Patients who require root canal therapy can expect the following procedure to take place:

  • First, the tooth, its nerves, and its surrounding gums will be numbed via local anesthesia. This will prevent discomfort during the procedure.
  • The dentist will then begin removing tissue from the upper portion of the tooth, called the crown. This will create a path down toward the roots, and in many cases, will remove decayed tissue along the way.
  • A thin tool will be used to remove decayed pulp, nerves, and other soft tissues from the root canal. The canal will be cleaned out to prevent disease from spreading.
  • Antibiotics will be placed within the canal to promote healing and curb any residual infection.
  • A sealant will be injected into the canal, replacing lost tissues and strengthening the roots from within.
  • A harder dental material such as amalgam or composite resin will replace any lost tissue from the crown, much like a regular dental filling.

At this point, the tooth will have been properly removed of infection and restored. However, due to the amount and type of tissue lost, the tooth will likely need extra protection to ensure its continued health. This typically calls for the placement of a dental crown, which covers the tooth to ward off future injury or disease. Because crowns are often made of porcelain, they are superior in both appearance and durability, serving as an excellent replacement for a tooth’s hard outer layer.

Do You Need Root Canal Therapy? 

If you have any suspicion that a tooth may not be healthy, schedule an appointment with us at your earliest convenience. The sooner a problem is identified, the easier and more successful treatment will be. In the case of decay, root canal treatment may be avoided altogether through prompt and proactive action. Contact our office to schedule your next visit.