Having a clear idea about what a root canal entails is the first step toward knowing whether it is the right treatment for your dental challenges. Dr. Jacqueline S. Allen of the Phoenix Endodontic Group says, “It’s important for patients to understand the root canal process. Having full comprehension of what’s really involved in this procedure can make it easier for them to make truly informed decisions about their oral health.”
The Root Canal Process
- A patient presenting with symptoms of pain, tooth discoloration, prolonged sensitivity to heat or cold, or tenderness to the touch or when chewing is referred to an endodontist for diagnosis.
- The endodontist will examine the tooth and take X-rays to determine if the pulp of the tooth is infected and/or inflamed. If so, an appointment to perform a root canal treatment will be set up.
- On the day of the root canal treatment, the endodontist may numb the treatment area with a local anesthetic and place a dental dam around the affected tooth to keep it free of saliva and debris.
- Next, the dentist will access the root canals of the tooth through its crown, and use special metal files to clean the canals and remove the infected pulp from the tooth.
- After the pulp is removed, the endodontist will fill the canals with a bio-compatible material known as gutta-percha. A temporary filling will be placed in the tooth opening to seal off the canals.
- When the patient returns to the endodontist, the temporary filling will be removed, to make way for a crown or other permanent restoration to be placed by a restorative dentist. If the tooth lacks structure to hold the restoration in place, the endodontist or restorative dentist may place a post in the tooth.
Re-treatment of the tooth with the root canal may be needed later if it becomes injured or suffers additional tooth decay. In both cases, the sealed canals could be exposed to additional infection or inflammation.
“The root canal process is fairly straightforward, and has a success rate of about 90 percent,” Dr. Allen says. “Clarity about what to expect can help patients who need this procedure feel more confident that they are making an excellent choice for their health.”