By Pittsburgh Dentist Dr. Dan Rairigh
Root canal therapy is performed when a tooth is threatened by current or inevitable future infection. To cure the infection and save the tooth, root canal therapy is performed by a dentist.
What is Root Canal Therapy
Root canal therapy (endodontics) is the process of removing the dental pulp (nerves and blood vessels) within a tooth, measuring, cleaning, shaping, and disinfecting the root canal space prior to placing a filling.
A tooth that requires root canal therapy can range from having no pain to very severe pain and swelling. Often when a tooth reaches the point where a root canal is required the only alternative is an extraction. With today advancements, root canal therapy can usually be performed painlessly and quickly.
The treatment may take 1- 2 or more visits depending on the infection present and the complexity of the treatments. Antibiotics may or may not be necessary as sometimes a root canal needs done without an actual infection being present (vital root canal therapy).
Root canal therapy maybe necessary for following reasons
- Abscessed tooth
- Cavity that has entered the nerve space
- Trauma causing chronic pain and inflammation (pulpitis)
- A fracture or break that has damaged the dental pulp
- A deep cavity prior can cause the eventual damage to a nerve requiring a root canal
- X-ray showing bone damage due to pulpal death (necrosis)
What is involved with root canal procedure?
First the patient is numbed thoroughly. After the patient is comfortable a protective device called a rubber dam is placed (like a safety net) to protect the patient from swallowing anything and keep the tooth isolated from contaminates in the saliva. If present a cavity is thoroughly removed. Then a small hole is made to expose the dental pulp. The canals where the nerves and blood vessels in the tooth are found are located. The number of canals vary depending on the tooth and that particular patient’s anatomy. Typically front teeth have 1 canal, premolars have 1-2, and molars have 3-4. After these canals are located, they are measured, cleaned, shaped, and disinfected to allow for a permanent root sealing material to be placed. This is typically done with a material called Guttapurcha. After the permanent seal is placed an X-ray is taken to verify successful root canal therapy. Usually the tooth then requires a core (new filling replace missing tooth structure) and a crown to strengthen the tooth to allow long term success and prevent fracture and leakage of permanent root seal.
Often root canal therapy can be completed by a general dentist, but sometimes a specialist completes the treatment if the tooth has badly curved roots or had a previous root canal treatment. Root canal therapy when performed properly has a high success rate 90+%.
Diagnosing Root Canal Therapy
Do you have more questions about root canal therapy?
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