The very mention of the words ‘root canal’ can be enough to make your teeth hurt. A root canal is what most people commonly refer to when they are talking about endodontic therapy. The root canal itself is the area inside the root of the tooth. The inside of this canal contains the pulp chamber which contain nerve tissue. If you are experiencing pain in reaction to eating or drinking hot or cold food and beverages, you may be a candidate for this type of treatment.
Despite the bad connotations, however, the actual surgery isn’t as painful as is generally believed. An anesthetic is used to numb the area and thanks to advances in endodontic surgery in the past few decades, not only are these procedures relatively painless, but they are also performed fairly quickly. A root canal surgery may take as little as one hour to complete and generally no longer than two hours.
There are a few possible reasons why this type of surgery will need to be performed. The dental pulp may have become infected or inflamed due to a crack in the tooth or due to repeated dental procedures. A tooth that has been filled in the past is at a higher risk of becoming infected. If the tooth goes untreated, an abscess can develop which may result in the complete loss of the tooth.
In order to repair the tooth, your dentist or endodontist will remove the infected tissue, then clean and disinfect the canal. The canal will then be sealed with a rubbery material called gutta-percha. Gutta-percha is a thermoplastic material that is heated until it is malleable enough to fit into the root canal walls. A temporary filling may be used until such a time as a more permanent filling or crown is placed on the tooth.
The placement of the crown will usually require a second visit. In the interval, you can consult with your dentist about which form of permanent restoration is right for you. An antibiotic may be prescribed after root canal therapy. This will depend on the risk of infection. Your dentist or endodontist will make the evaluation of the potential risk. If a patient does experience an infection after treatment, then antibiotics maybe prescribed at that point as well. After a tooth has been treated with this type of surgery, it is considered dead, so pain should subsist; however, additional treatment may be required. A worst case scenario might require that the tooth be extracted completely. While saving the natural tooth is always the preferred method, if a tooth needs to be extracted, there are alternatives that may be used to fill the gap.
Once you have successfully undergone endodontic therapy, you may find that you are able to chew more efficiently, as your normal biting process may have been adversely affected by the pain of an infected tooth. With the tooth restored your teeth may appear more even, and with the pain gone, you’ll definitely feel better and, maybe, a bit more confident.