What is a root canal?

A root canal is a dental treatment procedure that is required once the nerve of the tooth becomes infected. How does does this happen? First, the tooth starts to decay. If left untreated, over time the decay expands into the nerve (called the pulp) of the tooth. The tooth’s nerve (pulp and canal tissue) becomes irritated, inflamed and infected (pulpitis). As the bacteria quickly multiply, pressure builds inside the tooth, the pulp tissue starts to die (pulpal necrosis) and the patient starts to experience severe pain in the area. The only treatment option at this time is to remove the damaged tooth nerve tissue. The dentist must clean and disinfect the tooth’s roots canals carefully to relieve the patient’s symptoms.

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Symptoms that a root canal treatment is needed:
-severe constant, dull pain, especially at night time.
-pain after eating cold or hot foods. Pain that lingers on and doesn’t go away.
-swelling or irritation in the surrounding gum tissue.
-breath odor.

How is the root canal done?
First the dentist will numb your gums with a substance that feels like jelly, this is called topical anesthetic. After applying the substance you’ll be injected a local anesthetic that will completely numb the teeth, gums, tongue and skin in that area. The dentist may separate the decayed tooth from the other teeth with a small sheet of rubber on a metal frame. The dentist will use a drill and other tools to remove the pulp from the tooth. After the pulp and decay are removed, the dentist will fill the inside part of the tooth below the gum line with medicines, temporary filling materials and a final root canal filling.

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After the root canal a permanent filling or crown is needed depending on the amount of tooth structure that is left after all the decay has been removed.


Root canal treatments are preventable! Keep up with your bi yearly dental check ups so that your dentist can asses when decay starts to form and be able to treat it before it progresses.

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