What is a “root canal”?

In the very center of your tooth there are blood vessels and nerves called “pulp”.  When the “pulp” becomes infected it must be physically removed, the canals shaped, disinfected and filled with a non-reactive filling material. This is called root canal treatment or Endodontic treatment. Alternatives to root canal treatments are extraction and subsequent replacement with a bridge, leave the missing tooth as-is, partial denture or implants (which can be more expensive) and leaving the tooth as-is. The goals of this treatment are:

* Stop the toothache after the healing period.

* Prevent infection and pain from spreading into the jaw & affecting other related parts of the body.

* Maintain your natural tooth instead of replacing it with a space, denture or implant.

Will it cause discomfort?

During a root canal the area and the tooth is numb from the use of a local anesthetic. We use the local anesthetic to numb the area so you are comfortable throughout the procedure. We also provide relaxation/sedation, available on request – just let us know before we schedule your appointment. After the numbness wears off, for most people there may be only minor swelling & tenderness. For some people it may be extremely uncomfortable. That’s why we prescribe a strong pain medication and antibiotics after mostroot canals. Generally, the area will be sore and your jaw joint may be tired after the procedure. This usually lasts a few days but can last a month in extremes.

How is the procedure done?

Root canal therapy can be done in 1 or more appointments depending on the amount of infection and your comfort level with long appointments and any post-operative discomfort.

  • A window is created in the tooth so that any infected matter can be removed.
  • The root canals are enlarged, flushed with irrigants & shaped with precision instruments.
  • Cotton, medicine and a temporary filling may be placed in the cavity, or the tooth may be left open to drain.
  • At the next appointment, the temporary filling is removed.  The cavity is filled with special inert material. The root is sealed & the tooth built-up with a post / core and later a crown / onlay.

What happens after my root canal?

The healing capacity of your body will dictate how fast the area around the tooth will heal. The tooth may become dry and brittle and can fracture. That is why we advise most teeth with root canal NEED A CROWN OR ONLAY and possibly a core buildup. The buildup and Crown or Onlay are separate procedures with separate fees and are not included in the fee for the root canal. After the root canal, buildup and Crown or Onlay, the tooth should be fine and you may use it as any other ordinary tooth.

Should I take my antibiotics and pain medication?

It is very important that you take all your antibiotics and pain medication as prescribed to help rid the area of infection and post operative discomfort. As with all antibiotics, FINISH the prescription as directed even if the tooth feels fine. If the antibiotics give you diarrhea, difficult breathing or make your skin break out, you may be allergic to that particular antibiotic; stop taking them and call our office IMMEDIATELY and we will change the prescription for you.  If you develop a severe reaction to any medicine you must seek emergency medical care.

Do root canals always work?

A root canal is not a black and white cure; it is a therapy with over a 90% success rate. Sometimes the infection never clears up or the tooth is internally cracked or fractured, or calcified (blocked canals) and the tooth has to be retreated by a specialist, be surgically filled or be extracted.

The success or failure of a root canal can result from causes not under our control such as the anatomy of the tooth, inaccessible canals, breakage of endodontic files inside the root, cracks and fractures in the tooth that are not visible. Possible complications include but are not limited to swelling and discomfort, persisting numbness and/or discomfort, continued pain, breakage of the tooth in between visits, limited oral function, inadvertent under-filling or overfilling of the root canal, breakage of files in the canals, post-operative pain or perforation of the root, temporary or permanent injury to a nerve or sinus.