Stuart Anderson, D.D.S.
Creating Beautiful Smiles

Root Canal Therapy

Root canal therapy is needed when the nerve of a tooth is affected by decay or infection. To save the tooth, the living tissue inside the tooth,  also called the pulp, nerves attached to the pulp, the invasive bacteria, and any decaying hard tissue are removed. The now-empty space is filled with medicated dental materials, which restore the tooth to its full function.

Having a root canal done on a tooth is the treatment of choice to save a tooth that otherwise would die and have to be removed. Many patients believe that removing a tooth that has problems is the solution, but extracting (pulling) a tooth will ultimately be more costly and cause significant problems for adjacent teeth.

Root canal treatment is highly successful and usually lasts a lifetime, although retreatment may be necessary if the patient is particularly prone to decay.

Signs and symptoms for possible root canal therapy:

  • An abscess (or a pimple) on the gums.
  • Sensitivity to hot and cold.
  • Severe toothache pain.
  • Sometimes no symptoms are present.
  • Swelling and/or tenderness.

Reasons for root canal therapy:

  • Decay has reached the tooth pulp (the living tissue inside the tooth).
  • Infection or abscess have developed inside the tooth or at the root tip.
  • Injury or trauma to the tooth.

What does root canal therapy involve?

A root canal procedure usually requires one or more appointments with either Dr. Anderson or, if necessary, an endodontist (a root canal specialist).

While the tooth is numb, Dr. Anderson places a rubber dam (a sheet of rubber) around the tooth to keep it dry and free of saliva.  An access opening is made on top of the tooth, and a series of root canal files are placed into the opening, one at a time, removing the pulp, nerve tissue, and bacteria.  Tooth decay is removed with specialized dental instruments if it is present.

Once the tooth is thoroughly cleaned, it will be sealed with either a permanent filling or, if additional appointments are needed, a temporary filling.

At the next appointment, usually a week later, the roots and the inside cavity of the tooth will be filled and sealed with unique dental materials.  A filling will be placed to cover the opening on top of the tooth.  Also, all teeth that have root canal treatment should have a crown (cap) added to them. This prosthetic will protect the tooth, prevent it from breaking, and restore it to its full function.

After treatment, your tooth may still be sensitive, but this will subside as the inflammation diminishes and the tooth has healed. You will be given care instructions after each appointment.  Good oral hygiene practices and regular dental visits will aid in the life of your root canal treatment.


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