What is a root canal treatment?

Root canal treatment or endodontic treatment is necessary when the centre part within the tooth, known as the pulp, housing the blood vessels, nerves and living connective tissues, become infected or inflamed.

The root canal procedure is performed to save a damaged or badly infected tooth, instead of extracting it. This procedure is performed by an endodontist or a root canal specialist.

The most common causes of tooth damage or infection are, cavities occurring due to plaque accumulation, cracked or broken tooth due to any accidents or trauma, gum diseases, and repeated dental treatment to a particular tooth. These issues can cause pulp inflammation, infection and damage the pulp irreversibly. The person will at times experience excruciating pain. The pain may subside when the pulp dies, but very often returns as the infection spreads.

It is advisable to see a general dentist immediately if you experience a toothache or gum pain.

How is root canal procedure done?

The entire root canal procedure may take place in one sitting, or at times 2 or 3 sessions depending on the condition of the tooth. Each sitting may last between 30 - 90 minutes. It is a simple procedure with relatively little or no discomfort.

  1. At the outset, local anesthesia is administered to the tooth which is to be treated.

  2. After the tooth and the surrounding areas become numb, the endodontist drills an opening through the crown or the biting surface of the tooth to access the pulp chamber. If it is a front tooth, the endodontist drills an opening from behind the tooth.

  3. Using special files the endodontist cleans out the infected, diseased and dead pulp from the canals. The procedure does not cause any pain as the area is numb due to the anesthesia, and the tissue that is removed is dead.

  4. Once all the infected and dead tissue is removed, the canals are disinfected using disinfectants.

  5. The canals are then shaped with fine instruments so that they can be filled with the root canal fillings known as gutta-percha and sealed. During the process of shaping, irrigation method is used to wash and clean the canals and remove the debris, before inserting the fillings and sealing the tooth.

  6. A temporary cover material which acts like a seal is placed above the gutta percha. This covering material is kept in place till a crown or a cap which looks like a normal tooth is fitted atop the treated tooth.

  7. At times, a post is inserted into the canal next to the gutta percha to give the crown more support.

  8. Thereafter, the crown is cemented in place so that it never dislodges.

Are there any side effects of root canal procedure?

  • A common side effect of root canal treatment is a dull pain in the tooth following the procedure. It usually vanishes within a week after the treatment.

  • However, if any bacteria remains even after the procedure, the infection may begin again. Therefore, it is advisable to go to the doctor if the pain stops after a few days of the procedure and recurs again.

  • At times there could be a crack at the root of the tooth, which does not get noticed by the endodontist. If so, the crack leaves the area exposed for bacteria and infection.

  • The crown may come loose which will expose the treated tooth. If left exposed the seal on the tooth may erode leaving the way for bacteria to enter and infect the tooth again.

  • If the crown dislodges, you need to get it fixed at your dentist’s immediately.

  • If defective materials are used during the filling process, they may erode which may lead to bacterial infection again.

Who is not eligible for root canal procedure?

You are not eligible for root canal treatment if you are:

  • suffering from high blood pressure/hypertension

  • take blood thinners (the endodontist may ask you to stop taking the blood thinners for a couple of days prior to the treatment)

  • suffering from diabetes

  • suffering from autoimmune diseases

  • suffering from infections and fever

  • suffering from osteoporosis

How long will it take to recover after a root canal procedure?

It usually takes a week to completely recover from a root canal treatment.

Are the results of root canal procedure permanent?

The results of root canal treatment are considered to be permanent.

Content source: Practo