South Anchorage Dental Center

What Happens During a Root Canal?

January 29, 2021
What Happens During a Root Canal?

A root canal is one the most of common, and most important, services our dentists offer in Anchorage. This procedure is used to address an infection and save teeth that may otherwise need to be extracted due to repeated trauma, deep decay, or a crack.

You may learn that you need a root canal after seeking care for pain and swelling in the tooth or surrounding gums, bumps and discolored areas on the gums, or sensitivity to hot and cold. You may also discover this procedure is necessary if a large cavity is discovered during a routine appointment or after seeing an emergency dentist for a cracked tooth.

If you have an upcoming root canal procedure, you may have some anxiety about what the treatment entails and how painful it will be. Fortunately, modern dentistry has come a long way in making this procedure both more effective and more comfortable for patients.

Here’s a guide on everything you need to know about the root canal process.

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Root Canal Procedures in 7 Steps

During a root canal procedure, the dentist removes the infected pulp from inside the tooth and cleans and disinfects the root canal. The tooth is then filled and sealed. In most cases, the initial procedure takes from 30 minutes to 90 minutes to complete, depending on the severity of the situation. However, in some cases it’s possible that multiple appointments may be needed. 

This process typically takes place over the course of seven steps:

1. X-Ray and Examination

When arriving for your appointment, the dentist first takes time to examine the appearance of the tooth and X-ray it to study the shape of your tooth’s root canal and determine the location and extent of the infection.

2. Anesthesia

Typically, the dentist will numb the area with local anesthesia. While patients are not usually sedated for this procedure, sedation dentistry is often available if dental anxiety is preventing you from making your appointment.

3. Dental Dam

A rubber sheet, or a rubber dam, is placed around the tooth being treated. This helps isolate the area and prevents excess saliva or bacteria from entering.

4. Drilling

A drill is used to break through the enamel and dentin of the tooth and expose the inside. For front teeth, this hole is placed in the back of the teeth; the hole is drilled through the top crown for molars.

5. Pulpectomy

Next, the infected pulp within the tooth, which contains the tooth’s nerve tissue, is scraped and removed. While pulp helps nourish teeth while they are still developing, it is not necessary in fully developed teeth and can be safely removed. The area is flushed with a disinfectant to remove any remaining bacteria or infection. If necessary, the root canal will be reshaped to prepare for the filling.

6. Filling

Depending on the situation, a temporary filling may be placed inside the tooth, which is removed and replaced with a permanent filling in a future visit. In some cases, a permanent filling made from gutta-percha is used the same day as the pulpectomy. A sealer paste is also used to completely seal and protect the tooth.

7. Restoration

Further restorative can protect the tooth from future infection and restore its appearance and function. If a root canal was needed due to a dental emergency that damaged the surface of the tooth, posts may be used to help restructure and strengthen the tooth. A crown, typically made from porcelain but sometimes composed of metal or a combination of the two, is then placed over the natural tooth. This crown is crafted and tinted to match the appearance of the surrounding teeth.

Recovery and Outlook

Since local anesthesia is administered for this procedure, you’ll likely feel minimal or no pain during a root canal. Some discomfort or tooth sensitivity is common in the first few days following the appointment, but it can often be controlled with over-the-counter pain medication. However, many patients quickly experience relief from any pain they were feeling before the procedure.

Root canals are a very common and often successful treatment. You should refrain from biting on hard or chewy foods until the permanent filling and crown is placed to avoid damaging the recovering tooth. Also, make sure to keep up with your dental hygiene routine, continuing to brush and floss daily to avoid further decay and infection. Seeing your dentist regularly for checkups and cleanings is also essential for maintaining the results.

As you explore treatment options, such as root canals, and choose South Anchorage Dental Center for routine dental care, consider our Dental Savings Plan. This plan allows you to save up to 20%, allowing you to prioritize your oral health no matter what dental emergencies come your way.

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