When the nerve of a tooth is infected by due to decay, a root canal is needed in order to clean the canals of the root of all the decay and infection. This usually saves the tooth by removing the pulp, nerves and bacteria inside the tooth and replacing it with medicated dental material that fills the space allowing the tooth to be saved.
Patients choose to have root canals when they wish to save a tooth that would otherwise have to be removed. Most patients believe that extracting the tooth is the best idea. However, pulling a tooth is costly and leaves a space that may cause problems for other adjacent teeth. The removed tooth should be replaced by dental implants, which is also costly.
The decay inside the tooth has reached the pulp of the tooth (the living tissue inside the tooth); the infection may have become an abscess which has developed at the root tip, or there may have been injury or trauma to the tooth.
When the tooth is numbed, the dentist will place a rubber dam (rubber protection) around the tooth to keep it dry and free of saliva. An opening is made at the top of the tooth and a series of root canal files are placed inside the opening one at a time. These remove the pulp, the nerve tissue and any bacteria inside here. If there is decay inside it will be removed with special dental instrument.
Once the tooth is thoroughly cleaned of all bacteria and debris it is then sealed with a permanent filling. The patient may need additional appointments.
The dentist usually waits one week and then he fills the roots and the cavity with special dental materials taking care to seal the tooth completely. The dentist places a filling to cover the opening on the top of the tooth. This prevents the tooth from breaking and protects it restoring the tooth to its full function.
Once the root canal treatment has finished the tooth may still be sensitive for a while. Eventually this sensitivity will subside as the inflammation inside the tooth reduces and the tooth begins to heal.
The patient must practice good oral hygiene practices and regular visits will aid the life of the root canal.