Root Canal Treatment

What is a root canal treatment?

Root Canal TreatmentEach tooth is a vital organ that communicates sensation to the brain.  The tooth is kept alive by nerves and blood vessels that it contains, known as the pulp.  Root canal treatment (RCT) involves removing the nerves and blood vessels and disinfecting the canal system of the tooth.  The canals are prepared and sealed with materials to prevent bacteria from re-entering the root canal system.

When is a root canal treatment needed?

Root canal treatment (RCT) may be indicated for a number of conditions.

  • Large decay that reaches the nerve
  • Nerve begins to die
  • A tooth that needs a post and core buildup to retain a crown
  • Presence of pain without any specific reasons

RCT involves removing the nerve that is causing you pain and restoring it back to function.

What are some common symptoms?

The tooth often goes through phases when the nerves begin to die.  Pain is only one indicator that something is wrong.  Here are some of the other common symptoms to note:

  • Prolonged sensitivity to temperature change
  • Tenderness when pressure is applied
  • Presence of pus
  • Swelling that raises the gum tissue around the root
  • A bitter taste in the area from an abscessed tooth
  • Swelling or tenderness around your head and neck region

Please call us at (206) 800-6468 if you experience any of the above symptoms.

What happens during a root canal treatment (RCT)?

Once you are numb, a protective barrier is placed to prevent swallowing or inhaling of the materials used during the procedure.  A mouth prop called the bite block may be used so that you can rest your jaw against it during the procedure.  For your comfort, we may place a device underneath the rubber dam to evacuate water and saliva as they accumulate.  The root canal procedure itself involves removing the infected nerve tissue completely from the canal system before placing a special material inside the canals to create a tight seal to prevent reinfection.

How many appointments does a root canal treatment need?

It depends on the diagnosis or the reason for the need of a root canal treatment.  If there’s a large infection in the root, it may require two separate appointments to complete the RCT – 1st appointment involves placing medicine into the canals after removing the infected tissue and let the body heal, and 2nd appointment ensures that you are symptom-free before completing the RCT.

In many cases, a root canal treated tooth is prepared for a crown to restore function.  If this is necessary, the tooth will be prepared for a crown on the same day the RCT is completed.  On the 3rd appointment, you will have your final crown delivered.  Please note that this is in general and your specific situation may vary.

Should I have a root canal treatment or an extraction?

It depends on the situation.  If there’s enough healthy tooth structure, it is better to save the tooth by doing a root canal treatment than removing the tooth.  Your teeth work together as a team and they share the various forces of every day use.  When a tooth is lost, the neighboring and opposing teeth begin to shift into the vacancy and cause changes in your bite.

There are a number of other events that can result following a tooth loss.

In general, it is less costly to have an RCT and crown compared to an extraction followed by a dental implant to restore function.  More importantly, although a root canal treated tooth is considered non-vital, it still communicates with the brain by way of tiny ligaments that hold the root in your jaw.  You may no longer “feel” the tooth, but there are still different types of nerve fibers that allow you to detect pressure.  Therefore, in many cases, if the tooth is restorable, it is recommended that the tooth be restored back to normal function.

However, a root canal treated tooth may become brittle over time and more susceptible to fracture when compared to a healthy tooth.