Understanding Root Canal Treatment

Updated: Nov 14

Root canal treatment is a dental procedure that involves the removal of infected pulpal tissue to be replaced by an inert filling material. It is performed by specialist dental surgeons, the endodontist. It requires skilled training and is a time-consuming procedure. RCT is a relatively painless and extremely effective procedure to help conserve your natural teeth.


Understanding Root Canal Treatment
Understanding Root Canal Treatment

What is Root Canal?

The root canal is the extension of the tooth chamber in the roots of the tooth. They are narrow canals and vary according to the number of roots of the teeth. This chamber contains the pulp. The pulp is the soft tissue inside the tooth that has nerves and vessels. The pain, sensitivity and temperature change that you feel are because of the nerves present in the pulp. When the bacteria enter the pulp through carious breakdown, it becomes infected and the tooth starts hurting. If left untreated, the infection can travel down to the apex and cause a periapical infection that may take a longer time to heal when treated.


When do you need a Root canal treatment?

Root canal treatment is the recommended treatment of choice when your tooth shows symptoms of infected pulp. When the X-ray shows that the pulp or the periapical area is damaged by a bacterial infection. The invasion of bacteria into the pulp leads to the division and multiplication of bacteria. These bacteria may spread to other areas like the apex causing a periapical abscess or the periodontal area to cause periodontal inflammation. Moreover, the infected pulp will display these symptoms:


Symptoms that you need a root canal:

  • Pain or sensitivity that lingers, to hot or cold and sweets.

  • Dull or sharp pain.

  • The pain lasts for more than 30 minutes.

  • Deep decay in the tooth

  • Chipped or cracked tooth due to some impact like biting on a hard substance

  • Pus draining through an opening in the gum (fistula)

  • Foul tasting drainage

  • Swelling

  • History of severe pain in the tooth, but currently the tooth is symptomless

What happens in a Root Canal Treatment?

Root canal treatment is a treatment option for a restorable tooth that has become painful due to an infected pulp or chipping. Your dental surgeon will take you through a process of detailed history taking, followed by a careful clinical examination, radiographic evaluation, and some other tests like EPT, Cold test, and a heat test. The dentist will then discuss all the possible treatment options available for your tooth.


After the treatment plan is formulated, your dentist will schedule you for the first visit for RCT. It can be performed in a single visit or they may require a number of scheduled visits.


On the day of your appointment, the dentist will prepare you for the procedure and anesthetize the area. They use local anesthesia to numb the area. Some teeth may not need to be anesthetized, as the nervous supply is already dead. But the dentist will still do so to make you comfortable and relaxed during the treatment.


A rubber dam is placed to keep the area dry. A rubber dam is a plastic sheet, that does not allow the saliva to enter the tooth, nor does it allow treatment materials to come in contact with your oral cavity. This gives a sterile environment for tooth preparation and increases the chance of success of root canal treatment.


The next step is the use of the dental drill for the removal of carious enamel and the opening of the tooth chamber. The canal is cleaned using a series of root canal files. The tooth is thoroughly irrigated with sodium hypochlorite to flush away debris and bacteria.


After cleaning and shaping of the root canal, the endodontist will fill the prepared canals with an inert filling material. This seals the tooth and the apical area. A temporary filling is placed above the root canal filling. Later on, this filling is replaced by a strong restorative material and then a crown is placed over the root-treated tooth to make it fully functional.


What to do following a Root Canal Treatment:

On the day of your treatment and the following days, you must avoid putting stress directly over the tooth. As the blood and nervous supply of the tooth have been compromised during the RCT, it is highly likely that you may unknowingly put heavy pressure that may damage the tooth structure. Your dentist will discuss any additional dental work that needs to be done after the completion of RCT.


How long is the RCT procedure?

An appointment time of 30 to 90 minutes is allotted for the RCT if it is to be done in a single visit. Moreover, the visits also depend on the severity of the infection and the location of the tooth.


Root Canal recovery:

Your mouth may feel numb for a couple of hours until the effect of anesthesia resides. After the numbness is gone, you may feel some sensitivity due to inflammation and instrumentation. This is usually taken care of by OTC pain killers.


Avoid chewing over the area until a preferment restoration is placed over the treated tooth. Brush, floss and use mouthwash regularly and keep visiting your dentist every 6 months.

Is the root canal treatment painful?


Root canal treatment is a painless procedure. In fact, it will help relieve any pain that is being caused by the infected pulp. Moreover, some teeth are already dead, your dentist will still anesthetize before starting the procedure to make you relaxed and comfortable.


Root canal treatment vs extraction:

Natural teeth always play a superior role compared to artificial replacements. RCT is conservative treatment and preserves maximum natural tooth structure. Be it the gum health or the tooth structure itself, nothing competes with the natural tooth structure.


Surgical removal of a tooth is indicated when the majority of the tooth structure is lost and is non-restorable. The missing tooth is then replaced by a bridge or an implant. Extraction can also be an alternative to root canal in case there is a cost problem.


Success rate:

Root canal treatment has a high success rate, with a reported survival rate of greater than 97% (1–3). When original root canal treatment fails, retreatment or apical surgery is often indicated. Only about five percent of root canals fail, and sometimes it is not actually a “failure.


If you have questions about root canal treatment, call us today 706-658-2383. If you have any additional questions about your oral hygiene, please feel free to contact us at Traditions Dental. To learn more about Traditions Dental visit our About Us page. For more tips and information feel free to follow us on social media on IG @traditionsdental and Facebook @traditionsdental.

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