Though most people are anxious about the possibility of needing a root canal, the procedure is sometimes necessary to prevent tooth loss. If you do need to have root canal therapy, it’s good to know exactly why it’s required and what to expect during and after the procedure.
Reasons for Root Canal Therapy
If you have a tooth that has suffered severe damage or decay, or that has been broken off or heavily eroded, your dentist might recommend a root canal. The most common reasons a tooth might require this procedure are:
- Severe decay that has reached the pulp chamber
- Signs of infection in the tooth’s interior
The pulp is the soft tissue in the center of your tooth. Under normal conditions, it is protected by the hard outer layers of enamel and dentin. However, if the tooth’s exterior is damaged, bacteria can reach the soft pulp, causing inflammation and infection. This infection can then spread to other areas of the mouth, into the jaw and facial bones, and even into the sinuses. To prevent the infection from becoming serious or even life threatening, your dentist will recommend a root canal treatment.
What Happens During a Root Canal?
The purpose of root canal therapy is to remove all the infected tissue from the inside of your tooth. The dentist will drill a hole to provide access, then use special files of varying sizes to remove all the pulp as well as the nerve tissue. Once the pulp is removed, the dentist disinfects the tooth’s interior, then fills it with a special resin. You’ll probably have a crown fitted, either right after the procedure or a few days later, based on your dentist’s recommendation.
After your root canal, you should follow all the instructions you receive regarding aftercare. This can include using cold packs to reduce swelling, taking prescribed painkillers and/or antibiotics, and taking it easy for a day or two. Once your tooth has healed, it will no longer sense temperature or pressure, but will be usable for many years to come.
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