Root canal therapy (also known as a root canal or RCT) is a treatment in which infected, injured, or dead pulp within the tooth is removed in an effort to preserve the tooth. The pulp consists of nerves and blood vessels, and when infected, it can be quite painful. Root canal treatment is also known as endodontic treatment. The dentist or endodontist will remove the pulp from the centre of the tooth and fills the pulp cavity. Preserving the tooth helps keep your other teeth from shifting out of line and causing jaw problems. Saving your natural teeth avoids having to replace them with artificial ones.
When will you need a root canal?
Root canal therapy is prescribed when decay has severely and permanently damaged the tooth, to the point where it has reached the pulp or is very close to it. Root canal is also performed when an infection has developed into an abscess. The procedure relieves toothache, stops infection, and promotes healing.
After an RCT is performed, your tooth will need to be restored; so that it will look, feel and work as much like a natural tooth as possible. If the procedure was performed by a general dentist, he/she can do the restoration. If your dentist uses CAD/CAM technology like CEREC, the restoration can be done on the same day. Otherwise, you will need two separate appointments to complete the restoration. If an endodontist performed your root canal, he will fill the opening of the tooth with a temporary filling and send you back to your general dentist or prosthodontist for final tooth restoration.
Most root canal treatments are successful. However, there are rare cases where a second root canal treatment is needed. This is called retreatment. When a retreatment is performed, the filling material is removed; the canals are recleaned, reshaped, and refilled.
Are there any risks?
If you have an infected tooth, the bacteria can spread through your bloodstream to other areas of your body. Those who already have a hard time fighting off infections may need to take antibiotics prior to the procedure, as well as after. For example, people with heart valves or were born with a heart defect.
What else should I know?
Root canal treatment may be done in 1 or 2 appointments. Your tooth may be tender for the first week or two after treatment. If you experience bad pain or severe swelling, call your dentist or endodontist to have it checked out.
The root canaled tooth can still get a cavity or gum disease. Root canal treatment does not protect your tooth from other types of damage. Regular dental visits and proper oral hygiene care are needed so the tooth can last as long as your other natural teeth. Most of the time, a tooth that has had a root canal treatment can be saved. However, there are cases where everything possible has been done to save a tooth and still the tooth must be extracted (pulled).