Root Canal Frequently Asked Questions
What is root canal treatment?
Root canal treatment is the removal of the nerve and blood vessels of a tooth for the purpose of trying to save the tooth from extraction. A simple analogy is removing the wick from a candle. The void where the wick was is cleaned and smoothed and then we place a rubber-type material into the cleaned out space to seal the canal.
What is the dental pulp?
The pulp is the soft tissue that contains nerves, blood vessels, and connective tissue. It lies within the tooth and extends from within the crown of the tooth (that portion of the tooth that is visible) to the tip of the root in the bone of the jaw.
What happens if the pulp gets injured?
When the pulp is diseased or injured and can't repair itself, it dies. The most common cause of pulp death is a cracked tooth or a deep cavity. Both of these problems can let germs (bacteria) enter the pulp. Germs can cause an infection inside of the tooth. Left without treatment, pus builds up at the root tip, in the jawbone, forming a "pus-pocket" called an abscess. An abscess can cause damage to the bone around the teeth.
Why does the pulp need to be removed?
When the infected pulp, which is made up of blood vessels and nerves, is not removed, pain and/or swelling can result. Some elements of the infection can injure your jaw bones and the resulting bacteria may enter your bloodstream. Without treatment, your tooth may have to be removed. In severe cases, you might need to be hospitalized due to an infection throughout your body.
What does treatment involve?
Treatment often involves from one to three visits. During treatment, the diseased pulp is removed. The pulp chamber and root canal(s) of the tooth are then cleaned and filled with a rubber-type material that seals the tooth so that no germs enter the tooth.
Here's how your tooth is saved through treatment:
First, an opening is made through the top of the tooth into the pulp chamber. The pulp is then removed. The root canal(s) is cleaned and smoothed. Medications may be put into the root canal(s) to help get rid of germs and prevent infection. If the treatment requires more than one visit, a temporary filling will be placed in the crown opening to protect the tooth between appointments or the tooth may be left open for a few days to drain. If a prescription is provided, please follow the directions as written. On the subsequent appointment, the temporary filling is removed and the pulp chamber and root canal(s) are cleaned and filled. However, if we advise you that your tooth requires a crown, you will need to return to our office for that procedure.
Please see our Root Canal Gallery for more information.