Root Canal Therapy

Everything You Need to Know

Teeth have two sources of blood supply and nerve supply. One is in the tissues that surround the tooth. The other extends up into the tooth and forms the pulp or nerve of the tooth. A fully mature tooth can survive without the pulp because it is nourished by those surrounding tissues.

Pulp tissue can become damaged due to decay, infection, or injury. Symptoms of a damaged pulp may include pain, sensitivity to hot or cold, swelling or a bump on the gum, tenderness, or even discoloration. In some cases, patients experience no symptoms at all.

Once root canal therapy is deemed necessary, the area is numbed, and a protective "rubber shield" is placed on the tooth to isolate it and keep it free from saliva while the procedure is being performed. Then a small opening is made in the biting surface of the tooth (or the back of a front tooth). The damaged pulp tissue is removed using specialized instruments. The canals of the tooth are cleaned and shaped; then, a filling material is placed inside the canals to seal the tooth to help prevent reinfection. In most cases, this can be accomplished in one appointment, but sometimes a second appointment is necessary.

A temporary filling material will be placed in the opening that was made to gain access to the canal system. This temporary filling will be replaced by your general dentist when he or she places a permanent restoration. We generally recommend this be done 1 to 3 weeks following completion of your root canal therapy. A permanent restoration is required as a final step in saving your tooth.

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