What Is a Root Canal?

A root canal is a treatment that is used to address either inflamed or dead nerve tissue of a tooth if it has been associated with dental trauma, deep decay, cracks or infection. The goal of this therapy is to save the tooth. This is done by cleaning the canals and removing the damaged nerve tissue to create a bacteria- and decay-free environment. Once the roots are disinfected, they are ready to be filled with special dental materials that help to restore the tooth to its full functionality.

Root Canal Therapy May Be Needed If You Experience:

  • Severe toothaches
  • Inflammation or discomfort
  • Heightened sensitivity to temperature
  • Swelling in the gums, cheek, jaw or under the eye
  • Occasionally, a problem can be found on an X-ray with no symptoms present

Root canal therapy is the best option for saving a tooth that would otherwise lead to an extraction. It is a highly successful treatment; however, occasionally during the lifetime of the tooth, additional procedures may be needed to heal recurrent infections. This is an excellent way to preserve your natural teeth and avoid more costly dental restorations such as dental implants. Saving your teeth also prevents future bone loss and damage to adjacent teeth.

What Is Involved With a Root Canal?

The procedure often requires one to two appointments. Most treatment is sent to a root canal specialist (an endodontist). After numbing the area, a rubber sheet is placed over the tooth to isolate it from saliva or bacteria found in the mouth. Next, an access is made on the chewing surface of the tooth so that unhealthy nerve tissue, bacteria and decay can be removed and disinfected.

After the canals are thoroughly cleaned, a permanent filling will be placed over the access point to seal the tooth. If additional treatment is needed, a temporary filling will be placed until the treatment can be completed during the second appointment.

In most cases a crown (cap) will be recommended after the root canal is completed. Crowns are an important component part of the sealing process to help protect the tooth from breakage and restore it to optimal function.

Patients may experience sensitivity after treatment, which is normal and should diminish after the tooth has fully healed. A list of instructions will be provided as a guide of what to expect during the healing process and how to take care of your teeth to have the best possible results after your root canal.

If you have a toothache, you may need root canal therapy. Contact our dental office in Spokane, Washington, at 509-327-8681 to learn more about root canals and to schedule an appointment with our excellent dentist.