What is a root canal treatment?
A root canal treatment (or root canal) is a dental procedure that saves and preserves a sick tooth. The procedure includes:
- cleaning out the decay, cracks and any old filling material
- making the access opening that is necessary to reach the inner chamber of the tooth
- removing the infected tissue
- replacing the tissue with special filler that can be seen on an x-ray.
A root canal is a final effort to preserve a tooth and it almost always works but some teeth may prove to be too sick to save.
Are there alternatives to treatment if my tooth is sick?
The only other option if a tooth becomes infected or dies is to extract (remove) the tooth from the mouth. In some cases, extracting a tooth is necessary, but it is always best to save restorable teeth whenever possible. It is almost always cheaper to save a tooth than to replace one.
My tooth does not hurt. Do I need a root canal?
A sick tooth may cause an ache that alerts you to a problem. More often a cavity will tunnel its way into the inner chamber of a tooth (the nerve) so slowly that you do not realize that it is sick.
How soon will I need a crown after a root canal?
After your root canal is complete, a putty-like temporary material is placed in the center of your tooth. This material can allow bacteria to re-infect the tooth if not replaced with a stronger material as discussed. If the tooth becomes reinfected it may need another root canal treatment or it may need to be removed. Dr. Morgan recommends preparing your tooth with a crown and build-up no longer than 3 to 4 weeks following the completion of your root canal.
Why do I need a crown and build-up after my root canal?
After a root canal, the tooth is weakened by the hole left behind. The missing tooth structure is replaced with a type of filling material that will “build it up” so a crown may be placed on the tooth. The tooth then needs to be strengthened by covering it with a strong porcelain or gold crown. The crown will provide a support and build the tooth back into the bite.
Will I be able to return to work or school after having a root canal?
Yes, most patients find that they are able to resume normal functions after root canal treatment. You will want to be careful eating solid foods until the numbness has worn off. You will also want to avoid eating on the side that was treated until your permanent crown has been placed.
Will I be in pain after the root canal is finished?
It is normal for a tooth to be sore following a root canal procedure. The tooth and area around it might have some inflammation that should be controllable with Ibuprofen (Advil and Motrin). The treating doctor may also prescribe prescription strength pain pills for you at the end of your appointment. In most cases, a tooth that was hurting before the procedure will feel much better afterwards.