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What happens during a root canal treatment?

What happens during a root canal treatment?

First and foremost, the patient’s mouth is made very numb. Typically, an opening is made in the center of the tooth to gain entry into the dental pulp, which contains the nerve. This access opening is made with the dentist’s drill and the sensation is akin to having a cavity treated. Aside from the usual water spray and dental noise (my patients find that headphones and a good selection of music are very helpful), this initial step is usually accomplished very quickly and is the only “drilling” performed during root canal therapy.

Once the pulp is uncovered, special instruments are used to remove this tissue from the inside of the tooth including the root(s). Let me clarify; the roots themselves are not removed, only the pulp inside of them is taken away. When everything is cleaned out and thoroughly disinfected, the area once occupied by the pulp (the root canal system) is hermetically sealed with an inert filler called gutta percha. The entire procedure can be accomplished in a single visit, but often an additional visit or two is required.

Of course, what I just described is a thumbnail sketch of a typical root canal treatment. There can be variations to this theme, such as when there is the presence of an infection or abscess. But the objectives of therapy remain the same: make the patient comfortable, remove the pulp, shape and disinfect the canals, and seal them to prevent future infections. After the endodontic therapy is complete, the tooth must be properly restored to protect it from racturing.

A Point Worth Emphasizing About Root Canal Treatment

While root canal treatment success is close to 98%, the most common reason for an endodontically treated tooth to fail (i.e., to require extraction) is because it was not properly restored. Most teeth with root canal require a crown or an onlay to ensure longevity.

One last point: while the prospect of having root canal therapy can elicit fear and dismay, the actual treatment is most frequently painless and uneventful. If you are apprehensive about a pending root canal, take heart, you are not alone. But please realize that much of your angst is based on myth and don’t be afraid to discuss your concerns with your dentist. In 2013, there are many approaches available to ensure your mental and physical comfort.

What can I expect after the procedure?

The pain you felt prior to your root canal should be gone. Your tooth may be sensitive right after the procedure due to inflammation of the tissue (this is completely natural and expected). Any discomfort probably can be controlled with the use of OTC medications such as naproxen or ibuprofen.

For more information on root canals, contact our root canal dentist at 781-648-0279 for a consultation.



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