In times past, the staple technique of all dentists for teeth with significant decay was extraction. Today, root canal, or endodontic procedures can often allow even a badly damaged or decayed tooth to be restored to normal function. With proper care, a root canal can last the rest of the patient’s life.
In short, the tooth is drilled down through its center to remove the soft, central living tissue, which is either completely dead or has become infected. This is then replaced with a filling, running from the top of the tooth, down into the jaw to replace the root of the tooth. While this may sound scary, it is done under local anesthesia and every care is taken to minimize patient discomfort.
Root canals are typically done in two procedures. First, the tooth is isolated from saliva with a small, plastic shield, known as a dam. Then, starting at the top of the tooth, the dentist drills down, taking care to remove any and all damaged soft tissue and decayed outer tooth, known as dentin. The drill works down to the tip of the root, to empty the space known as the root canal. The tooth is then temporarily filled to prevent saliva and other contaminants from entering the open canal.
In the second procedure, the temporary filling is removed and a new filling and crown are created to restore the tooth’s shape and appearance. Material used will depend on where the tooth is located, your natural tooth’s color and how much of the original tooth is left. Once this crown hardens, the tooth will be ready for normal use.
Care of the Root Canal
Between repair procedures, care must be taken not to disturb the temporary crown. The area must be kept clean, through brushing and flossing, as should your other teeth. If the crown should become dislodged, contact us immediately. It should not remain open any longer than necessary since this can cause further infection and damage.
Once the tooth is repaired, you can brush, floss and care for the restored tooth as you would the rest of your teeth. Watch for signs of looseness, or swelling, which can indicate further infection or damage. If properly cared for, the restored tooth will last indefinitely.