What to Expect During a Root Canal

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A root canal is a form of treatment that is used to preserve a tooth that has become infected due to a deep fracture within the tooth, a deep cavity, repeated dental treatment on the specific tooth or trauma. The procedure involves removing the pulp, as well as the nerve tissue within the canals of the roots. This process usually takes 2-3 visits. The pulp chamber and roots are cleaned and disinfected during the first two visits and sealed at the last visit.

Root Canal: Here’s What to Expect

  1. X-rays: these form a vital part of the treatment and are taken before, during and after completion of the root canal. X-rays validate the need for a root canal to be done by allowing the practitioner to view infections at the root which may not be seen clinically. Each stage of the procedure can also be successfully monitored with the use of the x-rays.
  2. Anaesthesia: local anaesthetic is administered to the affected tooth in order to prevent any discomfort during the procedure.
  3. Rubberdam: A small, rubber sheet may be placed around the tooth in order to isolate it and prevent moisture from contaminating the surface.
  1. Preparation: An opening is made at the top portion of the tooth using a drill. This allows easy access to the affected pulp that needs to be removed. Small files are then used to clean the canals of the tooth and remove the infected nerve tissue. A liquid solution is used to rinse the canals and remove any further bacteria or debris that may be present.

  1. Once the pulp chamber and canals are thoroughly cleaned and dried, a medicated paste is placed in the canals and a temporary filling is placed.
  2. At the 2nd visit, the canals are cleaned further and shaped in order to accommodate the permanent material that will be placed at the next visit. The canals are irrigated and step 5 is repeated. In certain cases the treatment may be completed at this visit. The canals are filled with a permanent material and sealed with cement. A permanent filling is required in order to replace the missing tooth structure that was initially removed and to provide a seal over the completed root canal.
  3. Usually large fillings, extensive decay or both are present on teeth that require root canal treatment. A crown serves to provide stability, prevent the tooth from fracturing and restore the tooth to full function. This procedure is highly recommended and usually done a few weeks after the root canal has been completed.

Root canal procedures falsely have the reputation of being painful.  Most people report that the procedure itself is no more painful than having a filling placed. 

Initially, the tooth may feel sensitive due to natural tissue inflammation after the canals have been prepared and once treatment has been completed, especially if an infection was present before the procedure. Medication such as Panado or Mybulen can be used to manage the discomfort. Most patients can return to their normal activities the next day.

After the root canal procedure:

As with natural teeth, those that have been root treated are still prone to infection. A follow-up appointment may be necessary in order to assess the root canal with an x-ray and ensure that all signs of infection are gone. In addition to twice-yearly dental cleanings and consultations, it is important to maintain a good oral care routine at home, which includes brushing twice a day and flossing. With care and attention, a tooth treated with a root canal can stay healthy for the rest of your life.