Root canal treatments can make it possible to save natural teeth in which the nerves and blood vessels comprising the dental pulp have been damaged by injury or infection. While more and more Americans are seeing root canals as the treatment of choice for saving teeth, many potential root canal patients still have questions about the procedure and how it actually works.
Most root canals will require at least two visits. The exact number of visits to complete the procedure and ensure its success depends on your situation and its complications. Here’s a brief overview of what may happen during each step of the process.
Why Root Canals Require Multiple Visits
First Visit: Your endodontist will take X-rays to examine the state of the tooth. They will numb the area around the tooth with a local anesthetic. A dental dam will be placed to keep the tooth dry and free of salvia. Next, they will drill an access hole in the biting surface of the tooth to access the pulp. The remainder of the first visit typically focuses on cleaning the canals with special tools. These tools scrape pulp and infected materials away from the canal walls. Periodically during the procedure, the endodontist will flush the canals with a cleansing solution to remove debris.
Many endodontists wait up to a week to finish the root canal. If your tooth was infected, they may treat you with medication. Before you leave, they will place a temporary filling to keep out contaminants. Their office will also confirm your next appointment.
Second Visit: During the second visit, the endodontist fills the canals being treated with a biocompatible material, usually gutta-percha. The access hole that was created is covered with a permanent filling.
Later Visits: Sometimes, you will need to schedule additional appointments if the tooth requiring treatment has an active infection at the time of your first visit, or if you have a condition such as temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder. Also, if your tooth sustained structural damage from the infection, decay, or injury that led to the need for a root canal, your endodontist may recommend scheduling a separate appointment with your regular dentist to place a crown on the tooth for additional protection.
“Root canals can take two or more steps to complete, but following through on all the steps increases the chances that your root canal will preserve your natural tooth for a lifetime,” says Dr. Susan L. Wood, who practices with the Phoenix Endodontic Group. “If you have an injured tooth, call us today to see if a root canal can help.”