Root canal therapy is a dental procedure that alleviates pain caused by an infected or abscessed tooth. The inflamed pulp is removed during the root canal process, and the surfaces inside the tooth are thoroughly cleaned and disinfected. A filling is then placed to seal the space.
When oral bacteria invade the pulp inside of your tooth, root canal therapy is necessary. This often occurs when a cavity is left untreated for an extended period, but it can also happen if your tooth becomes cracked or damaged due to trauma.
Sometimes an infected tooth can go unnoticed, but there are several symptoms that may indicate the need for root canal therapy, such as:
- Persistent toothache: If you experience deep, throbbing pain in your tooth that doesn’t go away, you may need a root canal. The pain may also spread to your jaw, face, or other teeth.
- Sensitivity to temperature: If your tooth hurts when you eat or drink something hot or cold, and the pain lingers, it could be a sign of an infected tooth that requires root canal treatment.
- Swollen gums: Infection can cause pus to build up around the tooth, leading to swollen or tender gums.
- Pimple on the gums: An abscess may form on the gums near the infected tooth, causing pus to drain from a pimple or boil and causing an unpleasant taste or odor in your mouth.
- Swollen jaw: If the infection is severe, your jaw may become visibly swollen.
- Discolored tooth: A tooth with an infected pulp may appear darker than the surrounding teeth due to poor blood supply to the tooth.
- Pain when biting or touching the tooth: If the nerves around the pulp are damaged, you may feel pain when you apply pressure to the tooth.
- Cracked or chipped tooth: Bacteria can enter the tooth pulp through a crack or chip, causing an infection.
- Loose tooth: Pus from the infected pulp can soften the bone that supports the tooth, causing it to feel loose.
The Canadian Dental Association reports that every day, over 1 Million root canals are carried out in the Canada every year. This translates to over 15 million root canal procedures performed each year.
Your healthcare provider can address any concerns you may have about your root canal before starting the procedure. To prepare for your root canal treatment, here are some steps you can take:
Follow medication instructions: If there is a significant amount of infection present, you may be prescribed antibiotics or anti-inflammatory medication. Be sure to take all medications as prescribed leading up to your appointment.
Avoid smoking: Tobacco use can impede the healing process. Refrain from smoking several days before your root canal appointment, and consider quitting altogether if possible.
Eat a nutritious meal: Since local anesthesia will be used during the root canal procedure, it is a good idea to eat a healthy meal beforehand. This will ensure that you are not hungry during the procedure while your mouth is numb.
The number of appointments needed for your root canal therapy will depend on the extent of the infection in your tooth. Typically, the procedure can be completed in one to two appointments. On average, a root canal takes around 30 to 60 minutes to finish. However, if you have a larger tooth with multiple roots, the treatment may take up to an hour and a half.
Your healthcare provider will begin your root canal by taking dental X-rays of the affected tooth to assess the extent of the damage and determine if root canal therapy is appropriate. The following steps will be taken during your root canal procedure:
Anesthesia: To ensure your comfort, your healthcare provider will administer local anesthesia to numb the infected tooth and surrounding gums. If you experience dental anxiety, they may also recommend sedation using medications such as nitrous oxide, oral sedatives or intravenous (IV) sedation.
Dental dam placement: Before beginning the root canal treatment, a small rubber dam is placed over the area to isolate the tooth and keep it dry during the procedure.
Access hole: Your healthcare provider will then make a small opening in the crown of the tooth to access the pulp.
Pulp removal: Using small dental instruments, the nerves, blood vessels and tissues inside the tooth are removed.
Shaping the canals: Once the pulp is removed, the pulp chamber and root canals are cleaned, disinfected, and shaped.
Filling the canals: The empty canals are filled with a flexible, rubbery dental material called gutta-percha.
Sealing the tooth: A temporary filling is placed to seal the tooth and prevent bacteria from entering.
Placing the final restoration: In most cases, a dental crown is necessary to protect the treated tooth and restore your bite. Crowns are custom-made and take two to three weeks to fabricate. When the crown is ready, the temporary filling is removed, and the permanent crown is placed. In some instances, a crown can be placed during the same appointment.
Although you shouldn’t experience significant pain after a root canal, you may experience sensitivity for the first few days. These symptoms are normal and can be managed effectively with either prescription or over-the-counter pain relievers. In the majority of cases, any side effects should lessen within one to two weeks.
Georgian Mall Family Dental is one big, happy family and we would be delighted for you to join us in caring for your dental needs – no doctor referral required. We offer a warm and welcoming environment that will immediately help you feel at home, and our diversified team of specialists can take care of any and every dental procedure you may need.
Georgian Mall, 509 Bayfield Street, Barrie
We are located on the Upper Level inside Georgian Mall,
across from Sportchek