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Root Canal Therapy

When a tooth’s nerve is infected or decayed, root canal therapy is required. The pulp (the live tissue inside the tooth), nerves, germs, and any decay are removed in order to save the tooth, and the resulting space is filled with special, medicated dental materials that restore the tooth to full function.

A root canal is the therapy of choice for saving a tooth that would otherwise die and have to be extracted. Many patients assume that eliminating a problem tooth is the best treatment, but what they don’t realize is that extracting (pulling) a tooth is more expensive in the long run and can cause serious difficulties for surrounding teeth.

Root canal therapy is quite effective and usually lasts a lifetime, though subsequent infections may require a tooth to be extracted.


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Root canal therapy warning signs and symptoms include:

    • On the gums, there is an abscess (or pimple).
    • Heat and cold sensitivity.
    • Toothache that hurts a lot.
    • Sometimes there are no symptoms present.
    • Tenderness and/or swelling.

Root canal therapy is used for a variety of reasons:

    • The decay has progressed to the pulp of the tooth (the living tissue inside the tooth).
    • Inside the tooth or at the root tip, an infection or abscess has developed.
    • The tooth has been injured or has been traumatized.

What is root canal therapy and what is involved?

A dentist or an endodontist can perform a root canal procedure in one or several appointments.

A rubber dam (a sheet of rubber) will be placed around the tooth while it is numb to keep it dry and free of saliva. On top of the tooth, an access opening is formed, and a series of root canal files are inserted one by one, removing the pulp, nerve tissue, and bacteria. If there is tooth decay, it will be removed with special dental devices as well.

After the tooth has been fully cleaned, it will be sealed with either a permanent filling or a temporary filling if more appointments are required.

The roots and internal cavity of the tooth will be filled and sealed with specific dental materials during the next session, which is generally two weeks later. The opening on top of the tooth will be filled with a filling. A crown (cap) should be placed on all teeth that have had root canal therapy. This will safeguard the tooth, preventing it from fracturing and restoring its full functionality.

Your tooth may remain sensitive after treatment, but this will fade as the inflammation subsides and the tooth heals.

After each appointment, you will be given information on how to take care of yourself. Your root canal treatment will last longer if you practice good oral hygiene and visit the dentist on a regular basis.


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