What are the symptoms or signs that a root canal is needed?
You may need a root canal if a tooth is causing you pain or if the
gums adjacent to the tooth are tender and swollen. Another symptom
is if the tooth appears discolored and has become extra sensitive to
heat and cold. If these symptoms reveal inflamed and infected pulp
inside the tooth then your dentist may recommend a root canal
What are the causes of dental pulp or nerve damage?
Dental caries(cavities), chipped teeth, cracked dental fillings, and
injury to the teeth can cause damage to the dental pulp. If dental
caries are not treated in time, the decay spreads inwards into the
tooth pulp causing nerve damage. Cracked dental fillings allow
saliva and harmful bacteria to reach the root canal and infect the
pulp. Fractured teeth can expose the pulp. Injury to the teeth can
cause pulp damage even if there are no external signs of damage to
the inside of the teeth.
Why is root canal therapy necessary?
When the nerves inside the tooth pulp die, the tooth dentin and
enamel can no longer receive organic nutrients and moisture. The
inflamed tissue surrounding the tooth causes toothache and infection
can damage the bones around the teeth. If the damaged pulp is not
treated, bacterial infection and inflammation can loosen the tooth
and it may have to be removed. Therefore, root canal therapy is
necessary to preserve the tooth and also protect the jawbone.
What does the root canal procedure involve?
The procedure takes place in four steps. First, the dentist studies
the x-ray of the infected tooth and then administers a local
anesthetic. Then, the dentist removes the inflamed nerve tissue
through an opening in the crown of the tooth. The root canal is
cleaned properly so that no debris or bacteria is left behind. This
will ensure that infection and tissue swelling does not happen
again. In the second step of the root canal procedure, the dentist
will seal off the cleaned root canal cavity. This is to prevent
fluids and bacteria from entering the cavity. In the third step the
root canal is filled with gutta-percha and adhesive cement mixture.
In the fourth and final step, a crown is placed on the sealed tooth
which allows the tooth to function normally.
Risks Associated With Root Canal Therapy
After completion of root canal therapy you might feel some
discomfort for few days following the treatment. To alleviate the
discomfort you can follow the dentist's recommendation on taking an
over the counter pain medication. In more extreme cases the dentist
may prescribe an antibiotic and prescription-strength pain reliever
to help reduce any remaining infection.
Following root canal therapy you should never chew directly on the
repaired tooth until its final restoration has occurred or your
tooth may crack. Also, keep in mind that the longer you wait to
complete the final restoration the more likely bacteria will
reinfect the treated canal requring the therapy to be performed all
Root canal therapy, like every other treatment, is not free of
unknowns and complications. There is a possibility that during the
procedure a shaping file could break and get stuck in the root canal
or that the root of the tooth fractures. In other cases a good seal
may not be achieved due to the shape of the root. Lastly, it is
possible to miss a hidden root or an extra canal that is in need of
treatment. Of course these complications are the exceptions not the
In the event that root canal therapy is unsuccessful, the dentist
can discuss alternative options including repeating the treatment or
extracting the infected tooth.