Root Canal Treatment


Root canal therapy is needed when the nerve of a tooth is affected by decay or infection. In order to save the tooth, the pulp (the living tissue inside the tooth), nerves, bacteria, and any decay are removed and the resulting space is filled with special, medicated dental materials which restore the tooth to its full function. Having a root canal done on a tooth is the treatment of choice to save a tooth that otherwise would be removed.

Signs and symptoms for possible root canal therapy:

  • An abscess (or pimple) on the gums.
  • Lingering sensitivity to hot and cold.
  • Severe toothache pain, especially made worse at night
  • Sometimes no symptoms are present.
  • Swelling and/or tenderness.

Reasons for root canal therapy:

  • Decay has reached the tooth pulp (the living tissue inside the tooth).
  • Infection or abscess have developed inside the tooth or at the root tip.
  • Injury or trauma to the tooth.

What does root canal therapy involve?

A root canal procedure requires several appointments spaced over a number of weeks to allow the infection to settle and involves the following steps:

  • The dentist examines and x-rays the tooth, then administers local anesthetic. After the tooth is numb, the dentist places a small protective sheet called a “rubber dam” over the area to isolate the tooth and keep it clean and free of saliva during the procedure.
  • The dentist makes an opening in the crown of the tooth. Very small instruments are used to clean the internal surface of the root canals and to shape the space for filling.
  • After the space is cleaned and shaped, the dentist fills the root canals with a biocompatible material, usually a rubber-like material called “gutta-percha.” The gutta-percha is placed with an adhesive cement to ensure complete sealing of the root canals. In most cases, a temporary filling is placed to close the opening. The temporary filling will be removed by the dentist before the tooth is restored.
  • After the final visit with you must return to have a crown or other restoration placed on the tooth to protect and restore it to full function.

Will the tooth need any special care or additional treatment after endodontic treatment?

You should not chew or bite on the treated tooth until you have had it restored by your dentist. The unrestored tooth is susceptible to fracture, so you should see your dentist for a full restoration as soon as possible. Ideally, a crown should be placed on a tooth which has had root canal treatment to increase its longevity. Otherwise, you need only practice good oral hygiene, including brushing, flossing, and regular checkups and cleanings.