For patients with extensive tooth decay, a severely infected nerve chamber, or severe tooth damage caused by trauma, root canal treatment is usually the only way to save the tooth and avoid extraction.
Within the hard outer shell of your tooth is a specialized area known as the pulp or nerve chamber, which contains a system of nerves, blood vessels, and lymph vessels that enter the tooth through the root canal. This system nourishes the cells within your tooth.
Severe tooth damage and deep decay can cause an infection in the tooth pulp. Root canals require the endodontist to remove the infected or damaged pulp, clean the cavity, and then fill it with a special material that helps to strengthen the tooth structure and prevent further damage.
You may need root canal therapy if:
- Your tooth is sensitive to hot and cold foods
- You experience throbbing pain while biting
- You have severe decay or injury that infects the bone
What to expect during endodontic treatment
The procedure is performed under anesthesia. The endodontist first drills through the crown to assess the length of the root canal and open up the pulp cavity for removal of the unhealthy vessels. The canal is then cleaned, enlarged, and shaped in preparation for the filling material.
The canals are filled and sealed. If the tooth is severely weakened, a metal post may be added for structural support or to retain the filling material. A temporary filling is used to seal the tooth, and a porcelain or gold crown added to strengthen the tooth.
Should you have a root canal?
Endodontic treatment is optional if you want to save a severely infected or damaged tooth that otherwise would have to be extracted. Tooth removal will often need to be followed with a dental replacement procedure to avoid the complications of missing teeth.
Root canal treatments are usually successful and last a lifetime with a combination of proper at home care and dental visits.