Root Canal 1

Root Canal

In maintaining our oral health our ultimate goal, of course, is to protect the health and comfort of our mouth, teeth, tongue, gums and other oral soft tissues. That said, it can sometimes happen that even the best oral hygiene habits fail to effectively eliminate all bacteria and food particles, which can lodge in the deep pits and grooves of back molars as well as in the gum spaces between the teeth. Left undetected and unresolved, this bacteria and these food particles have the potential to cause decay that can also go undetected and unresolved for some time–perhaps because the individual does not necessarily experience discomfort or pain whenever these issues first surface. Fortunately, when an individual regularly visits their dentist for professional dental examinations and cleanings, tooth damage and decay can be spotted and resolved through dental restorative treatment.

As one can imagine, there are varying degrees of tooth damage and decay that require varying degrees of dental restorative treatment. In the case that a tooth has been severely infected but is still salvageable, a root canal may be the appropriate restorative treatment.

What is a Root Canal?

A root canal seeks to save a severely infected tooth by removing all bacteria and dead or dying tissue from inside the tooth, sealing it off to prevent further infection and deterioration. This is normally needed when a cavity or some other infection has been left untreated for too long, destroying the pulp tissue deep inside the tooth. Not only can this infection become extremely uncomfortable and even painful, it can progress to the point where the tooth cannot be saved and must be extracted entirely. A root canal is therefore a useful treatment in not only working to resolve discomfort, but also in saving a tooth.

A root canal normally requires two separate visits to the dentist’s office, primarily for the purpose of making this extensive procedure as comfortable as possible for the individual. Following are the basic steps of a root canal procedure:

  • The dentist will perform a thorough examination of the individual’s mouth, including x-rays, in order to determine that a root canal is an appropriate treatment. In some cases, tooth decay and damage is too extensive to be restored and requires tooth extraction, while in other cases, tooth decay and damage may be limited enough that another restorative treatment, such as a filling, inlay, onlay or crown may be more appropriate.
  • Once the dentist has determined that a root canal is appropriate, he will administer a local anesthetic in order to numb the tooth and surrounding soft tissue. This will help to ensure the individual’s comfort throughout the procedure.
  • Using special dental tools, the dentist will open the top portion of the tooth in order to access the infected area deep inside. With small files he will remove all damaged pulp tissue and bacteria before thoroughly cleaning and drying the area in order to ensure there is no more dead tissue or bacteria present.
  • The newly cleaned tooth chamber will then be filled in so as to prevent any possible reinfection. The top of the tooth will be capped with a permanent dental crown, which will need to be fabricated by a dental laboratory. In the meantime, the dentist will close the opening with a temporary filling or crown.
  • Once the permanent crown has arrived at the dentist, the individual will return to have it placed over their restored tooth, adjusted as necessary, and then permanently cemented into place. In some cases, the dentist may request that the individual return again in a few weeks to recheck the tooth and make any further adjustments as necessary.

Follow-Up Care

While good oral hygiene habits are generally very important to one’s oral and overall health, it is vital that one’s oral hygiene habits are absolutely stellar after they have received a root canal. This includes twice daily brushing, once daily flossing, and twice-yearly professional dental cleanings and examinations in order to ensure that bacteria cannot re-enter the tooth and cause any further damage. The benefit to the individual, of course, is that a tooth that has received a root canal and is properly cared for can remain healthy and comfortable for the rest of the individual’s life–and their stellar oral hygiene habits can also help to protect and maintain the health and comfort of the rest of their teeth.


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