Everything You Never Wanted to Know About a Root Canal

The most important thing to keep in mind if we say you need a root canal is – that we’re trying to save the tooth. That’s really the goal of a root canal. When a tooth becomes infected or is very badly decayed, the root canal is a dental procedure that will clean out the tooth, seal it, and keep it from abscessing.

This article will share all the details about root canals so if you’re ever faced with the procedure you’ll have a better understanding of the process.

What Does a Root Canal Do?

A root canal goes into the natural cavity at the center of the tooth. Within that nerve channel is a pulpy area that can become damaged and abscess. In fact, the nerve within the adult tooth is really only there to serve as a hot or cold sensor. Once the tooth has emerged from the gum line, the root is actually something that can be removed. When the root is too damaged, it will break down with decay, and if left untreated can become severely infected. The swelling that can occur can be dangers – your teeth are near your brain, after all. So we want to mitigate the risk of swelling going to the face, neck, or head. This means it’s time for a root canal.

What Happens During a Root Canal?

There are several steps that we undertake during a root canal procedure:

  • The first step is usually to take an x-ray of the tooth to see the shape of the tooth and what lies beneath the bums and into the bone.
  • The dentist will place a rubber sheet (dam) around the tooth to keep the area clean and free of saliva.
  • We usually anesthetize the area around the tooth to make the procedure more comfortable.  
  • Once you can’t feel anything, we will drill a hole into the tooth, removing all the decayed nerve, pulp, and any bacteria. To do this we use a series of small files that will scrape and clean the sides of the tooth. Don’t worry – you won’t feel this! Periodically, we’ll use water or sodium hypochlorite to flush away any debris.
  • When the tooth is completely clean, we will seal it. That may occur the same day.
  • But, depending upon the infection, we may put medication inside the tooth and wait for it to work. If we do this, we’ll put a temporary filling over the hold to keep it clean.
  • To seal the tooth, we use a sealer paste and a rubber compound to fill up the root canal. Finally, we’ll add a filling to complete the work.

One thing to note is that teeth that need a root canal are most often the larger back molars. If this is the case, it’s likely there was a large filling on the tooth or it may have cracked, causing the root to die. In these cases, further restorative work, such as a crown may be needed. We’ll cover the process for getting a crown in our next blog.

If you’re feeling any tooth or jaw pain, contact our team right away – we can help!