Root canal treatment is necessary when the pulp inside your tooth becomes infected or inflamed. Pulp is made up of soft tissue containing blood vessels and nerves, and it can become infected or inflamed due to tooth decay, trauma, or leaking fillings.
Root canal treatment involves removing the inflamed or infected pulp from the pulp chamber and root canals inside your tooth and cleaning out and filling these areas to help treat the infection and preserve your tooth. Despite its benefits, root canal treatment has been subject to many misconceptions, some of which may cause you unnecessary worry.
Here's a five-step guide to root canal treatment to help you separate fact from fiction.
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1. Preparing for a Root Canal
Your dentist will examine your tooth and take a series of X-rays to help determine your suitability to root canal treatment and tailor your treatment for optimal results. Before carrying out the procedure, your dentist may administer a medicine called local anesthesia. This medicine will numb your mouth so you're awake but don't feel any pain during your treatment. If your tooth has died and is no longer sensitive to pain, you may not require local anesthesia.
2. Removing the Infected Pulp
Your dentist may place a dental dam, a thin sheet of rubber or vinyl, around your tooth to ensure it stays clean and dry during your treatment. He or she will then create an opening in the crown, the visible portion of your tooth, to access the pulp chamber and root canals and remove any infected or inflamed pulp from inside.
3. Cleaning and Enlarging the Root Canals
After removing the pulp, your dentist will clean and enlarge your root canals ready for the placement of a filling. This stage of your treatment may take place over one or more dental appointments, depending on the type and position of the tooth being treated and the number of root canals present. If your treatment spans several appointments, your dentist may place medicine inside your tooth and seal your tooth with a temporarily filling at the end of each treatment session.
4. Filling the Root Canals
Once your root canals are clean and free from infection, your dentist will fill them with a rubber-like material called gutta-percha. When heated, gutta-percha becomes soft and pliable and can be molded to fit the shape of your root canals. This, along with a permanent filling placed in your crown, seals your tooth and prevents reinfection.
5. Restoring the Strength and Appearance of the Tooth
Root-filled teeth are often weaker and darker than healthy, unrestored teeth, so your dentist may suggest placing an artificial crown over your tooth to restore its strength and appearance. If you require a crown, your dentist will reshape your tooth and take an impression of it for use in the construction of your crown. He or she will then place a temporary crown over your root-filled tooth to protect it from damage until your permanent crown is ready for placement.
The rumor mill never stops churning out misconceptions about root canal treatment, but don't let it stop you from undergoing this safe and effective procedure. By learning more about root canal treatment, you can cast your worries aside and focus on preserving your oral health.