What is a Root Canal and Why Do I Need It?

Contrary to popular belief, root canal procedures are not nearly as scary or as painful as depicted in popular culture. In fact, they’re a very common dental procedure and can be done in as little as one hour (for some teeth). Often times, root canals are needed when tooth decay progresses into the root of the tooth, causing pain and infection. In order to save the infected tooth, a root canal must be done. While the procedure is usually separated into two different appointments, once the second appointment is over, the tooth will be restored, pain-free, and fully functional.

What Is A Root Canal?

Every adult tooth has root(s) that help anchor the tooth in place within the gum and bone tissue. There is one main canal that exists within each tooth root, comprised of blood vessels and nerve tissue—which is medically termed “pulp”. These canals can become infected and/or inflamed, causing severe pain. A root canal is a procedure that cleans out infected tooth root(s) and fills them with a material called gutta-percha to seal the root canals. The root canal is what helps get rid of the infection and pain while restoring the tooth back to its former function, look and feel.

What Happens During A Root Canal Procedure?

Endodontists (dentists that only treat the inside of the tooth) and some general dentists will begin with a thorough exam of the mouth which usually includes x-rays of the tooth. After the initial exam, your dentist or endodontist will follow these steps:

1. The tooth is numbed with a local anesthetic injection and a dental dam is placed around the tooth to isolate the area that needs to be worked on.

2. A small opening is made inside the tooth to get to the canals. The pulp is cleaned out of the tooth to prepare the canal for the next step.

3. The canal(s) are then sealed using a biocompatible material called gutta-percha, and the opening where the dentist first entered the canal is then filled with filling material.

4. The filling is taken out and a temporary (or sometimes permanent) crown is placed on the tooth to help protect it. This step sometimes requires a second separate appointment.

5. The end! Congratulations! Your tooth has been restored to its former glory and you should be pain-free.

Who Needs a Root Canal?

A variety of situations indicate the need for a root canal, including some of the following:

1. Tooth decay that has progressed into the root canals

2. A chipped or cracked tooth

3. An abscess around the tooth

4. Persistent pain

5. Feeling pressure

If you think that you may need a root canal, it’s best to get the tooth looked at as soon as possible so that the infection and/or inflammation does not get any worse. If you wait until it’s too late, you risk losing the tooth altogether! Advanced DDS is a premiere full-service dental practice in Nassau County, NY. Schedule your dental appointment with us at 516-825-1100.

Infographic of root canal

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