Root canal therapy (RCT) is one of the most feared dental procedures, but it shouldn’t be! During Root Canal Awareness Week, we want to share information about RCT to help our patients who need endodontic therapy feel more at ease about their treatment.
“Root Canal” Defined
First things first– let’s make sure we understand the basic terms. Technically speaking, the root canal is the pulp or inner part of the tooth, not a procedure. The tooth is made up of two main parts: the crown and the root. The root is the part of the tooth that is below the gingiva, or gum tissue. Inside the tooth is the pulp (also called the root canal) which contains blood vessels, nerve tissues, and other cells. When an infection invades the pulp because of a crack or decay, it must be removed to relieve pain and stop further damage.
Root canal therapy (RCT), or endodontic therapy, is the name of the procedure that removes an infection from the root canal.
Signs or Symptoms You Need RCT
Without visiting an experienced dentist it’s impossible to know if you actually need root canal therapy. However, the American Academy of Endodontics states that these symptoms might indicate that you need root canal therapy:
- Acute pain while chewing and biting
- Pimples on the gum tissue
- A cracked or chipped tooth
- Sensitivity to hot or cold, even after the substance has been removed
- Swollen or tender gums
- Deep decay or darkening of the gums
The Root Canal Therapy Procedure
Endodontic therapy is completed in three simple steps: cleaning the root canal, filling it, and adding a crown or filling. Treatment can take one, two, or up to three appointments.
1. Cleaning the root canal
Using very small instruments, the dentist makes a small access point in the tooth’s crown to remove the diseased and dead pulp from the pulp chamber and root canals. Then, the dentist shapes the space for the filling.
2. Filling the root canal
Next, the dentist uses gutta-percha, a biocompatible material, to fill the root canals. To ensure the pulp chamber is completely sealed, a strong dental adhesive is used.
3. Adding a crown or filling
Finally, the dentist will place a temporary crown or filling over the tooth while the patient’s permanent restoration is being made. In the next week or so, the patient will return to the office to have the permanent crown placed.
Care and Expectations Post Treatment
Following treatment, dentists send their patients home with specific care instructions to manage pain and keep the tooth from damage. Some of these root canal therapy post-operative instructions include:
- Wait until the numbness wears off before eating
- Do not bite or chew with the treated tooth
- Eat soft foods until you are comfortable with tougher foods
- Brush and floss as normal, but be gentle with the root canaled tooth
- Take over-the-counter pain medication when needed
It is normal to feel some pain and discomfort after endodontic treatment. Mild sensitivity and swelling or inflammation are also common in the first couple of days. These symptoms should respond well to over-the-counter pain medications.
However, the following symptoms should be reported to our team immediately:
- Visible swelling inside or outside the mouth
- Severe pain or pressure that lasts more than a few days
- An uneven bite
- An allergic reaction to medication
- A loose or broken crown or filling
- The return of symptoms experienced immediately following treatment
Endodontic Therapy vs Extraction
When possible, it’s best to preserve the natural tooth. Our teeth help us chew and speak properly, help us maintain our facial features and a strong jawbone, and keep other teeth from shifting. This is why many dentists will recommend root canal therapy over an extraction.
Unfortunately, not all teeth can be saved. A severely decayed tooth will likely need to be extracted. Our dental team will provide you with various methods of replacing the tooth, including dental implants.
Schedule Your Appointment Today
In honor of Root Canal Awareness Week, make an appointment with our experienced and trusted dentist today. Whether you’re experiencing the symptoms of a diseased tooth or not, a dental exam and cleaning appointment can provide important insight into your oral health.
Our team is prepared to help you achieve and maintain optimal oral health by providing personalized, compassionate care. Call our office today to schedule an appointment!