Root canal therapy is needed when the nerve of a tooth is affected by decay, bacteria or infection. In order to save the tooth, the pulp (the tissue inside the tooth), nerves, bacteria, and any decay are removed and the resulting space is filled with special, medicated, dental material.

Having a root canal done on a tooth is the treatment of choice to save a tooth that otherwise would have to be removed. Many patients believe that removing a tooth that has problems is the best solution, but what is not realized is that extracting (pulling) a tooth can ultimately be more costly and cause significant problems and changes for adjacent teeth.

Root canal treatment is highly successful and can last a lifetime, although on occasion, a tooth will have to be retreated due to recurrent infection.

Signs and symptoms for possible root canal therapy:

  • An abscess (or pimple) on the gums
  • Sensitivity to hot and cold that does not resolve
  • Severe toothache pain
  • Swelling and/or tenderness

Occasionally, there can be no symptoms present but definitive diagnosis is made based on X-rays and tests run by our staff.

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 requires one or more appointments and can be performed by a dentist or endodontist (a root canal specialist).

While the tooth is numb, a rubber dam (a protective covering) will be placed 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.  If tooth decay is present, it will also be removed with special dental instruments.

Once the tooth is thoroughly cleaned, a special medicament is placed inside the canals of the tooth to aid in resolution of symptoms. Then, the tooth will be sealed with either a permanent filling or, if additional appointments are needed, a temporary filling will be placed.

At the next appointment, the roots and the inside cavity of the tooth will be filled and sealed with special dental materials.  A filling will be placed to cover the opening on top of the tooth.  In addition, all back teeth that have root canal treatment should have a crown (cap) placed.  This will protect the tooth and 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. If you were prescribed any medications, please take as directed. You will be given care instructions after each appointment.  Our post-operative care instructions are also provided here on our website for easy access. Good oral hygiene practices and regular dental visits will aid in the life of your root canal treatment.