An infected or decayed tooth can cause tooth discoloration, gum swelling, and persistent pain. You may also experience discomfort when you chew, have cold and hot food and drinks, or put pressure on the affected tooth. A root canal, technically called endodontic therapy, can relieve your symptoms and avoid the need for tooth extraction.
With more than 15 million root canals performed annually, a root canal is a relatively common procedure. If you have a damaged or infected tooth, a thorough dental examination determines your need for a root canal.
Our dentists at Rifkin Dental in Yorktown Heights and Carmel, New York, specialize in helping patients avoid tooth extraction with root canal therapy. Our team of dental specialists has the experience and expertise necessary to perform a root canal and achieve the best possible results. We provide professional, caring treatment to ensure that you remain comfortable throughout the procedure and finish with a restored tooth.
Find out more about why you may need a root canal and what to expect if you choose to have this treatment.
What is a root canal?
The term “root canal” commonly describes the dental procedure that treats infections that occur in the root canal of an affected tooth. A root canal also describes the hollow section of your tooth that leads from the top of your tooth to the tip of the root. It contains pulp, which consists of blood vessels, connective tissue, and nerves.
If you have a crack or deep cavity in your tooth, bacteria can enter the pulp through the crevice. If the pulp becomes infected, the diseased pulp requires removal before it causes a serious infection or a tooth abscess, leading to pulp death and bone loss.
While pulp contributes to the growth of a healthy tooth, a fully mature tooth can survive without pulp, so removing diseased pulp can save your tooth if it’s done before too much damage occurs. If an infection is left untreated, it can damage the bone holding the tooth in your jaw. If this occurs, the tooth may require extraction.
How is a root canal performed?
A root canal treatment typically involves at least two visits to the dental office. At your first appointment, your dentist uses X-rays to locate the decay.
Your dentist uses a needle to numb the area with a local anesthetic. Typically, you will have a small layer of rubber, called a dental dam, around the affected tooth to safeguard it from saliva and keep it sanitary throughout the procedure.
After your tooth becomes numb, your dentist makes a small incision on the surface of the tooth to reach the diseased area within the root. Your dentist uses small files to remove the damaged and unhealthy pulp. The pulp chamber and root canals are flushed with water to remove debris.
In the last step, your dentist fills the opening in the top of the tooth with a rubber-like material called gutta-percha. This seals the canals and prevents damage from saliva. A temporary filling is typically applied to protect your damaged tooth until it’s ready for a permanent crown.
How much pain does a root canal involve?
Your dentist performs a root canal to remove a pain-causing infection. Though you may feel anxious about the possibility of pain when faced with a root canal, the treatment doesn’t cause pain.
With proper application, the anesthesia effectively numbs your tooth and the surrounding area during the procedure.
You may experience some tenderness after the root canal. This discomfort can typically be relieved with over-the-counter pain medication like acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Your dentist may prescribe prescription pain medication if extreme pain persists.
What happens after my root canal?
You should feel able to resume your normal schedule the day after your root canal. If you have a temporary filling, you should avoid chewing or biting with the damaged tooth until you receive a permanent filling or crown. You may have to take antibiotics if the infection was spread beyond the pulp before your root canal.
When you return to the office, your dentist will take an X-ray to confirm the absence of infection. At that time, you’ll receive a permanent crown. If the affected tooth was badly damaged, you may need a small supporting post inserted inside the chamber to stabilize the permanent crown.
A tooth repaired with root canal therapy can last a lifetime with regular brushing, flossing, and dental cleanings. However, delaying the initial treatment of a damaged tooth can reduce the likelihood of saving it.
Find out more about relieving tooth pain and saving your damaged tooth with a root canal. Call one of our offices to arrange a consultation.