Root Canal Therapy

Root canal therapy becomes necessary when the pulp tissue (nerves, blood vessels and connective tissue found within the root canal space) of a tooth is affected by decay, inflammation, or infection.  In some of these situations, patients may experience either sensitivity, persistent discomfort or swelling.  In other cases, patients may feel no discomfort whatsoever. Regardless of the symptoms, endodontic therapy must be performed in order to retain such a  tooth.  During the procedure, the entire organic content of the root canal system (the pulp) is removed, leaving  a sterile hollow space which is then filled with a special root canal filling material.  Once this procedure is performed, the tooth can usually be retained for an indefinite period of time in comfort and function, provided that it has been properly restored (usually with a crown) by the general dentist after treatment is completed.

Having a root canal done on a tooth is the treatment of choice to save a tooth that otherwise have to be removed. While an implant can be an alternative treatment option, there is truly no better choice than retaining your natural tooth, when possible.

Root canal treatment is highly successful and usually lasts a lifetime, although on rare occasion, a tooth may have to be retreated. 


 Signs and symptoms for possible root canal therapy:

  • Sensitivity to hot and cold.
  • Spontaneous toothache pain.
  • Difficulty in chewing in a particular area
  • Swelling and/or tenderness in the gums
  • Radiographic (x-ray) findings
  • Often, there are no symptoms present

Reasons for root canal therapy:

  • Decay has reached the tooth pulp (the living tissue inside the tooth).
  • A hair-line crack in the tooth has resulted in inflammation of the pulp
  • Infection (abscess) has developed inside the tooth, and spread into the surrounding bone.
  • Injury or trauma to the tooth has caused irreparable damage to the pulp

What does root canal therapy involve?

A root canal procedure requires one or more appointments and can be performed by either a dentist or an endodontist (a root canal specialist).

After the tooth is anesthetized, any decay present is thoroughly removed, in order to create a sterile environment for the remainder of the procedure. A rubber dam (sheet of rubber) is then placed over the tooth to prevent contamination, especially from saliva, during the process.  An access opening is made through the biting surface of back teeth, or from the rear of front teeth, to allow entry to all canals present in the tooth.  A series of highly flexible instruments is then used in conjunction with various irrigation solutions to completely debride and sterilize the root canal spaces. The completion of the process involves the filling of all canals with a precisely placed, hermetically sealed root canal filling.  Usually, this process is completed at a subsequent visit.   In any case, a temporary filling is always placed over the tooth after any visit to prevent  contamination.

After completion of treatment, patients are referred back to their general dentists for permanent restoration.  After removal of the temporary filling, your dentist will determine the best way to restore the tooth for a result that will both strong and aesthetic.  Usually, this will require a crown (cap) to be placed.  Without proper restoration, the tooth may be vulnerable to breakage during normal eating, and so it is important that this be done within 2-3 weeks after our treatment has been completed.

After treatment, your tooth may remain sensitive for a time, but this will subside as the inflammation gradually diminishes.