Getting a root canal is one of the most feared dental procedures. However, many people who have gotten a root canal say that it’s not that much different from a filling! Like fillings, a root canal is necessary when the tooth has decay, except this time, the decay has reached the root of the tooth. This can cause hypersensitivity and discomfort to the patient because the root contains the nerve that sends sensory messages to the rest of the body. Luckily, other than receiving sensory information, the nerve is not necessary to a tooth’s function and can therefore be removed!
Why Do a Root Canal?
A root canal is great because it can save a tooth. The only other alternative to it is an extraction. This will not only cause more dental concerns, but also more time, more money, and your tooth itself. An extraction will leave a space where your missing tooth was. Teeth can shift, or the bite can be uneven, or speech can change. An extraction must then be followed with either a removable partial denture, or a bridge, or an implant, all of which would be more costly than a root canal. It is important to remember, too, that saving a tooth is always the best option!
Step 1: Root Canal Procedure
Root canal therapy requires two appointments. During the first appointment, the tooth is cleaned out and prepared. The area around the tooth is numbed and an opening at the top of the tooth is created so that there is access to the roots. All decay and soft tissue inside the tooth ( pulp ) is removed. Then a number of root canal files, increasing in size, are used to scrape off the inside and the edges of the roots so that all of the nerves are removed. Different teeth have different numbers of roots and it is necessary to do this for each root. Then the cavity and the roots are cleaned and flushed out. A gutta percha (rubber compound) is used to fill the roots and then a filling is used to fill the cavity.
An impression is also taken to send off to the lab so that a crown can be made to sit on the operated tooth. Like all other crowns, the patient can choose the shade of porcelain that they think best fits their smile and style. Until the permanent crown comes back, a temporary one is placed on top of the tooth.
Possible Open and Med
Sometimes the root canal preparation cannot be finished in one appointment, and is therefore called open and med. This at least removes all the nerves and relieves patient of the pain until the next appointment where the root canal preparation is finished. In the meantime, the open cavity is covered with a temporary filling to keep out food and saliva.
Step 2: Crown Delivery
The second appointment is very easy compared to the first. All that occurs is the permanent crown is seated on top of the root canal. The crown functions to protect the tooth and prevent it from breaking. It also returns your smile to the way it was, and may even improve it, depending on the shade and shape of the porcelain.
Root Canals Can Last a Lifetime!
Root canals usually last a lifetime. Because all of the nerves were removed from your tooth, your tooth is technically “dead” but functioning. Without the nerves, there should no longer be pain on the tooth, but it could still be susceptible to new infections. Therefore, as always, keeping good habits and having the dentist regularly check your root canals are both important to keeping your tooth healthy.