Untreated decay, a cracked or traumatized tooth and a large filling that has irritated the nerve can all cause the nerves and blood vessels inside the tooth to die. This allows bacteria to gain access and cause infection inside the tooth. The infection can pass through the canals into the bone causing an abscess. Instead of extracting the tooth, a root canal is performed in order to remove the infection and return the tooth to a comfortable functioning state that facilitates its preservation.
Root Canal Therapy
Root canal therapy usually requires a series of appointments:
- An opening is made into the top of the tooth in order to gain access to the pulp. The pulp and the canals are flushed with disinfectant and cleaned. A temporary seal is placed over the opening and in case of infection, antibiotics are prescribed.
- At the next appointment, the canals are cleaned, shaped and filled with a rubber-like material called gutta-percha to seal them.
- After a root canal has been done, the tooth structure has been compromised. In about a weeks time, once the root canal has settled down, a crown is placed over the tooth to avoid fracturing by activities such as hard eating or chewing.
Endodontic (root canal) therapy is probably one of the most misunderstood procedures performed in the dental office. The name is often associated with pain when, in fact, exactly the opposite is true. An abscessed tooth is probably one of the more painful dental emergencies treated, and the pain is alleviated by root canal therapy.