Root Canal Treatment
If the nerve within your tooth becomes infected, a successful root canal treatment can keep you from losing the tooth, while treating the infection before it causes health complications.
When properly performed, a root canal is no more uncomfortable than having a cavity filled, though the procedure is more complex. It is the removal of infected or dead pulp (the inner nerves and blood vessels) from inside the tooth, and the filling and sealing of the resulting space.
An infected (abscessed) tooth causes discomfort in the form of swelling and toothache. It can also cause severe health complications, because the bacteria from the infection can enter the bloodstream and travel to other parts of the body.
One way to treat the infection is to remove the tooth and disinfect the area. However, tooth loss creates a gap between surrounding teeth that often necessitates a dental implant or bridge. It is preferable to save the tooth if possible through root canal (endodontic) treatment.
The dentist begins by applying local anesthesia and isolating the area with a rubber dam. Then they drill an opening in the tooth to access the infected pulp, and remove it and clean the area with specialized tools. The dentist fills the root space with a filling material. Finally the dentist must seal the surface of the tooth with a crown to prevent further infection and restore the function and appearance of the tooth.
The root canal treatment is typically performed in one visit. A second visit may be required to complete the crown restoration.
Why would I need endodontic surgery?
- Surgery can help save your tooth in a variety of situations.
- Surgery may be used in diagnosis. If you have persistent symptoms but no problems appear on your x-ray, your tooth may have a tiny fracture or canal that could not be detected during nonsurgical treatment. In such a case, surgery allows your endodontist to examine the entire root of your tooth, find the problem, and provide treatment.
- Sometimes calcium deposits make a canal too narrow for the instruments used in nonsurgical root canal treatment to reach the end of the root. If your tooth has this “calcification,” your endodontist may perform endodontic surgery to clean and seal the remainder of the canal.
- Usually, a tooth that has undergone a root canal can last the rest of your life and never need further endodontic treatment. However, in a few cases, a tooth may not heal or become infected. A tooth may become painful or diseased months or even years after successful treatment. If this is true for you, surgery may help save your tooth.
- Surgery may also be performed to treat damaged root surfaces or surrounding bone.
Although there are many surgical procedures that can be performed to save a tooth, the most common is called apicoectomy or root-end resection. When inflammation or infection persists in the bony area around the end of your tooth after a root canal procedure, your endodontist may have to perform an apicoectomy.