What is a root canal?
A root canal procedure is done when decay or a broken tooth leads to bacteria (infection) getting into the canal system of a tooth where the nerve and other pulp tissues are located. This is an area that the body cannot disinfect so it must be done by a dentist. The procedure is basically cleaning out the infection within the tooth and disinfecting the area. After this is done the canal system is sealed with an inert material to prevent re infection. The tooth is still attached to the bone that holds it in the jaw. With a cap or crown to strengthen the remaining tooth structure, a root canal treated tooth has a very good long term prognosis.
Why would I need a root canal?
Nerve damage typically results from an infection caused by untreated decay of a tooth or from a hard impact to the mouth in sports or an accident. When a tooth has an infection inside the root canal system, the only way to save the tooth is by having a root canal. It is important to know that not all teeth are good candidates for a root canal procedure. If restoring to tooth to proper strength and function is not possible (or reasonably predictable) sometimes it is better to have the tooth removed and replaced with a bridge or implant.
Benefits of a root canal
Root canals prevent and clear up pain and swelling related to the infection. They also improve the chances that your tooth can be saved. The best implant is usually your existing tooth root. The root canal option should be explored prior to having an infected tooth removed. It is almost always more conservative and less costly to retain and repair a tooth compared to replacing it.
How are root canals done?
A small hole is drilled into your tooth to remove the infection within the tooth and then clean, shape and seal the canal system to prevent re infection. After a root canal is done the tooth almost always requires a crown (or cap) for long lasting strength.
Do root canals hurt?
For some reason root canals have a reputation for being particularly painful, long, or difficult. Usually this is not the case. In fact, since often the nerve in the infected tooth is completely dead there may not be any pain at all. With modern techniques, rool canals are really nothing to be afraid of.
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