What is a Root Canal and How is it Done?
If you need a root canal and you don’t know what to expect, you’re in the right place! I’m dr. Wong and I am going to walk you through the root canal procedure and help you better understand why it can be an effective way to eliminate your tooth pain, remove your tooth infection and save your tooth. I’ve completed thousands of root canals and I felt it was time to explain exactly what a root canal is.
Tooth pain can start in many different ways. In some cases, you’re sitting minding your own business and then your tooth starts aching in, or in other cases, it’s pain when you eat or drink hot and cold. Finally, in other situations, it’s throbbing pain after you’ve had a recent filling or a crown on your tooth. So, you’re in the dentist’s office and after an exam and some x-rays, you get the news you need a root canal, and depending on if you have had pain or not you might actually breathe a sigh of relief. Your mind also might race through a place of fear because there are so many stories of painful root canals floating around.
Root canal treatment, also known as endodontic treatment or therapy is a procedure whereby the irreversibly inflamed or infected pulp tissue of a tooth is removed and the canal system is disinfected and sealed in order to prevent future infection. Contrary to popular belief, the roots of the tooth are not removed during root canal treatment, but only the infected or inflamed pulp tissue within the roots and crown are removed. A tooth is made up of the part that is visible above the gum line called the crown and the part that is found within the bone below the gum line called the roots. Healthy vital teeth have tiny blood vessels and nerves that make up the pulp tissue found within the canal system of the roots and the pulp chamber of the crown. The pulp tissue of the tooth can be irreversibly inflamed or infected from different types of trauma or the progression of decay. This can lead to a severe toothache or dental abscess.
Different diagnostic tests and x-rays are used to determine what is wrong with the tooth and what the appropriate treatment options are. If your dentist determines a tooth is restorable or savable, one of the main treatment options to save the tooth in these instances is root canal treatments. There are three main steps to root canal treatment:
1. Step number one is access opening.
The affected tooth is anesthetized locally and an access opening into the pulp chamber is created with a dental drill. Most upper front teeth or incisors will have only one canal while lower front teeth will have one or two canals. Premolars will typically have one or two canals and molars will typically have three or four canals.
2. Step number two is cleaning and shaping.
The length of each canal is measured using an apex locator as well as x-ray images. A series of endodontic files are used in conjunction with a liquid disinfectant in order to meticulously remove the infected or inflamed pulp tissue and disinfect each of the canals. The root canal system includes small lateral canals that are too small for instruments to clean directly which is why it is important to enlarge and shape the main canals properly and use sufficient disinfectant solution. It is also important to disinfect the entire length of the root canal leaving tissue behind or not cleaning the entire length of the canal sufficiently can lead to eventual treatment failure.
3. Step number three is operation after the canals have been disinfected.
They are individually sealed traditionally with a material called gutta-percha and canal sealer is used to accomplish this. There are different techniques to accomplish this step, for example, there is warm vertical condensation or lateral condensation. Once the root canal treatment is completed it is important that a permanent restoration be placed to preserve the disinfected canals. This is important because it is possible for previously treated canals to be reinfected. A permanent filling or a crown will usually be recommended to help prevent this from happening. The crown may be recommended because root canal-treated teeth can become brittle over time and more prone to fracture. The crown can reinforce the remaining tooth structure and help prevent fractures.
As with any medical or dental procedure, there are certain risks or possible complications to root canal treatments. These include:
– lingering inflammation or pain which usually resolves over a short
period of time
-fractured or separated endodontic files which can affect the outcome of the treatment
-missed or hidden canals can lead to eventual failure or continued discomfort.
It is important that you find an experienced dentist or endodontic specialist who will hopefully maximize the outcome of the root canal treatment. Generally speaking, root canal treatment is a highly successful long-term treatment option to save your tooth. In many instances, it can be a more cost-effective option when compared to other options such as dental implants. At Hidden Valley Smiles, our doctors do provide root canal treatment and if you would like to schedule an appointment please call or visit our website! Is root canal procedure completely safe? Find in our blog article!
We are located at Bel-Red in an industrial neighborhood of Bellevue, Washington, that is located in the northeastern portion of the city. Our address is 12715 Bel-Red Rd #202 in Bellevue, WA 98005.