Root Canal (Endodontics)

Endodontics is the dental specialty that deals with the nerves of the teeth. Root canals are probably the most notorious procedure in dentistry and the most common procedure relating to endodontics. When a tooth becomes infected it is usually related to the nerves in the root of the tooth. The infected nerves need to be removed. If left untreated an infection can turn into an abscess, which is a much more serious problem that includes bone loss in the jaw.

The area around the tooth is numbed with a local anesthetic to start the procedure. The dentist will then drill down into the tooth to create an opening into the canal. They will then be able to remove infected tissue and clean the canal. After the infection has been removed, the space if filled with a sealant called gutta percha. It is highly recommended that a tooth that has undergone a root canal is fitted with a crown. This will improve the appearance of the tooth, and will also make it much more likely that the root canal is successful.

"Root canal" has become a scary term for dental patients to hear, but the benefits of the procedure and advances in dental technology have made it much less "scary". Local anesthetics and proper pain medication allow the procedure to be performed with little to no pain in most cases. There may be some soreness following the procedure, but that is normal for most dental procedures. Over the counter painkillers are usually enough to relieve any pain afterwards, but your dentist may prescribe medication. The procedure will also relieve you from pain caused by the infection allowing you to enjoy all the foods you love without any pain from heat, cold, or biting too hard. If you are experiencing pain consult your dentist today.

Root canal treatment, or endodontic treatment, is needed when the nerve of the tooth has died or is severely damaged or inflamed. The process involves opening an access through the top of the tooth and removing the damaged nerve and blood vessels in the tooth. The canal is then thoroughly cleaned and filled with an inert filling material called gutta percha. If the tooth is in the front of your mouth, it may require only a small filling to seal up the hole. If it is a posterior tooth or an anterior tooth that has broken or decay has broken down the tooth, then a crown will be necessary to prevent fracture of the tooth in the future.

Smptoms of a root canal:

Symptoms of a dead or dying nerve in a tooth usually include pain or sensitivity to cold, hot or biting pressure. Cold sensitivity that lingers for a while can be a symptom that the nerve is inflamed and may die. A nerve can die for many reasons, a few are:

  • Trauma
  • Decay, if its deep enough to involve the pulp (nerve) of a tooth
  • Multiple or Large Restorations
  • Cracked Teeth – A crack in a tooth that extends into the nerve canal may require root canal treatment or extraction if it is severe enough.
  • Internal Resorption – This can happen due to trauma of the tooth or for no known reason.

Can a root canal fail?

Although the success rates for root canal treatment are high, occasionally a root canal can fail. This is often due to leakage of the restoration on the top of the tooth. A missed canal can also cause failure. You will likely notice pain to chewing if this occurs. If this occurs retreatment is an option. If the tooth is not treatable with another root canal, then extraction is the only option. Replacement can be made with a dental implant, bridge or a removable denture. Some Root canals can be retreated by re-doing the same root canal, others can be treated by a procedure called "apicoectomy".

Root Resorbtion


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