Root Canal FAQ's
What is a root canal?
A root canal is an endodontic procedure that removes inflamed or infected nerve tissue from within the tooths’ roots and replaces it with an antisceptic filling material. The tooth is then strengthened with a dental crown to create a durable restoration.
The soft tissue at the center of a tooth, called pulp, is a very fragile tissue with a poor blood supply. All of the injuries received by the tooth over its lifetime result in the formation of fibrous and calcified scars within the pulp, which decrease the blood supply even further. The most common injury is deep decay. Endodontic therapy removes the soft tissue and replaces it with an antiseptic material in the center space or canal, in each root of the tooth. Patients needing root canal treatment usually have a diagnosis of pulp disease; the pulp is either dead or in the process of dying.
The goal of root canal treatment is to save a tooth that might otherwise require extraction due to pulp disease.
Root canals used to be among the most dreaded types of dental procedures. Today’s technology, however, enables root canal therapy that is virtually painless and creates beautiful, lasting outcomes. A tooth that has had high quality endodontic treatment, and is properly maintained, can last a lifetime.
How do I know if I need a root canal?
Every case is different. Not every tooth that needs a root canal will experience symptoms.
Some general signs of needing to have a root canal include:
- Unusual sensitivity to hot or cold drinks or food
- Sensitivity to chewing
- Spontaneous pain in a tooth
- Jaw pain that radiates to the lower jaw, upper jaw, or ear
- A bump or “pimple” forms next to a tooth, or on your gums
- Pain or swelling next to a tooth
In some cases, you will need to be evaluated before treatment can be scheduled to ensure that a root canal is truly necessary, or even possible. When you call to schedule an appointment our staff is highly skilled in determining whether or not you will need to have an evaluation before treatment is scheduled.
How many appointments does a root canal take?
Most root canals can be done in a single visit. However, sometimes there is too much infection to resolve in a single visit. This becomes evident as your endodontist examines the inside of your tooth with a surgical operating microscope.
During treatment your endodontist may decide to place an antibiotic directly within the roots of the tooth. This antibiotic is left in the tooth roots for up to 4 weeks to allow for adequate disinfection of the root canal system and results in improved outcomes. Your endodontist will discuss if this strategy is right for you.
What happens during a root canal?
You’ll receive numbing medication prior to the procedure. Once you’re resting comfortably and the area is numbed, your endodontist creates a small opening in the tooth using a surgical operating microscope.
A series of small surgical files are used to remove all traces of inflamed or infected nerve tissue from within the root, and the resulting space is rinsed and disinfected. Next, a permanent antiseptic material is placed into the roots to prevent further infection before the access hole is closed with a temporary filling.
This entire process occurs under magnification. Microscopic guided treatment allows your endodontist to completely clear the chamber and tooth roots of inflamed or infected nerve tissue and results in a very high success rate.
Will I feel anything during my root canal?
The Endodontists at WisNova are experts in local anesthesia and pain control. After initial numbing is given, the majority of patients feel no discomfort during the procedure, and none to very mild discomfort for the first 24-72 hours after.
For lower teeth it is occasionally necessary to use advanced local anesthetic techniques to achieve complete numbness. Rest assured, you are in charge of your procedure. If you feel any discomfort during your procedure, your endodontist will stop immediately and make sure you are fully comfortable before proceeding.
What about after the root canal is completed?
The best indicator of post-operative pain is pre-operative pain. Said another way, if it hurts when you come in, like any wound, there will be a healing period during which you can expect mild discomfort. If you have no pain when you come in, you will likely experience little to none post-operative discomfort. This discomfort is usually relieved by over the counter pain medications. In some cases, your WisNova endodontist may prescribe a postoperative antibiotic or stronger pain medication. Your endodontist will discuss what post operative pain management strategy is appropriate for your unique situation.
After the treatment is completed, you need to schedule an appointment for a final restoration with your dentist as soon as the tooth calms down and feels better. Final restoration should be completed by your dentist within 2-4 weeks. Any longer, and complications can begin. Your dentist will receive a full report informing them of our findings, treatment, and prognosis.
Does a root canal require any special care?
Once you return to your dentist and have your new crown installed, your restoration is complete, and your tooth will look and function like the rest of your teeth. With proper maintenance, you can expect your crown to last for many years to come.
While the crown itself cannot decay, poor dental hygiene can lead to gum disease and bone loss, which can eventually cause tooth loss. It’s important to brush and floss all of your teeth, including those treated through root canal therapy.
Learn more during a face-to-face consultation – schedule an appointment by calling our office or request appointment online.