A root canal is a very specialized treatment that is intended to repair and save a badly damaged or infected tooth instead of having to extract it completely. The root canal procedure involves removing and repairing the damaged area of the tooth, commonly known as the pulp, cleaning and disinfecting it and then filling and sealing it the tooth back to its natural state.
Some of the common causes affecting the pulp could be a cracked tooth, deep cavity, a repeated dental treatment to the tooth or trauma to the same tooth thus creating the need to perform a root canal.
The term “root canal” itself comes from the actual root canal procedure which is the actual cleaning of the canals inside the tooth’s root and then repairing the damaged canal.
Many patients are anxious that the old myth that root canals are painful still holds true. The fact is that was an old myth started decades ago but no longer holds true. With today’s major dental advances and local anesthetics, most patients have little if any pain with a root canal.
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So, what is a Root Canal in technical terms?
A root canal treatment consists of several different steps that typically take place over several office visits, depending on the severity and patient’s individual situation. The steps include:
- The first step is for the endodontist to examine and x-ray the tooth in question, then administer local anesthesia to the affected tooth.
- Then a dental dam is placed over the affected tooth so as to isolate it and keep it free from any saliva.
- Then the endodontist will make an opening through the back of a front tooth or the crown of a molar or premolar to remove the diseased pulp, called a pulpectomy.
- Next, the pulp chamber and root canals are cleaned and shaped in preparation for a filling that will make the tooth stable.
- The endodontist will then fill the root canal with gutta-percha material.
- More than one visit may be needed, and if this is the case, a temporary filling is placed in the crown opening to protect the tooth between the next visit. On the patient’s second visit, the temporary filling is removed, and the pulp chamber and root canal are permanently filled with gutta-percha into all of the canals and is then sealed in place permanently with cement.
- Occasionally a metal or plastic rod may be positioned in the canal for structural support. In the final step, a crown is usually placed over the tooth to restore its natural shape and appearance. If the tooth is broken, a post may be required to build it up before placing a crown.