The root canal system is found in the roots of your teeth. If you have an untreated tooth root infection, it may lead to irreparable damage to the tooth, which could be lost. An untreated infection can also spread throughout your body, even threatening your life if it develops into a condition called sepsis.
Although many people are very apprehensive when learning that they require root canal treatment, there is actually nothing to fear at all. The goal of the treatment is to help you preserve your natural tooth and to relieve any pain that you are experiencing by removing its source – decay and infection.
When might you need a root canal treatment?
Root canal infections normally develop very slowly due to untreated tooth decay that eventually reaches the dental pulp found at the heart of the tooth. This type of infection is often caused due to a loose filling or crown. A cracked or broken tooth may lead to a more rapidly developing infection.
If you are keeping up with your regular dental checkups, your dental team should be able to identify tooth decay before it becomes a major problem and has a chance to move into the root system. For patients who have not visited the dentist for some time, the infection may have had a chance to spread, possibly necessitating root canal therapy.
You will first be given a local anesthetic to numb the treated area. Your dentist will then drill down into the tooth to allow access to the pulp chamber and root system. They will use dental tools to remove damaged and dead pulp tissue from within the tooth and its roots.
Root canals are quite thin, so it may take awhile for your dentist to find all of them to ensure that every bit of infected material is cleaned. If you have an abscess, it will be drained at this time.
Next, your dentist will enlarge and reshape the root canals so that there is sufficient space for the filling material.
After the cleaning and widening of the root canals, your dentist will fill them using a special material that softens when heated, fitting the precise shape of the chamber. The entire space needs to be completely filled to prevent reinfection.
Since a tooth treated with a root canal will be somewhat fragile, your dentist may recommend that you receive a dental crown to strengthen the treated tooth.
Your dentist will first remove some tooth enamel before placing the dental crown using strong dental adhesive. After placement, your new crown should have both the feel and function of a natural tooth.
You should not expect any pain following a root canal treatment, but you may experience some temporary swelling or sensitivity for a few days. Over-the-counter pain relievers should be sufficient to manage any discomfort.