Root canal therapy (or Endodontic Treatment) is the removal of the nerve and blood vessels of a tooth to try to save it from extraction. This type of dental treatment is necessary when the pulp (aka “the nerve” or the inside of a tooth) becomes inflamed or infected. This damage to the root can be caused by deep decay or a crack or chip in the tooth.
Root canal therapy involves the removal of the inflamed or infected root, followed by the cleaning of the inside of the tooth, which is later filled and sealed with a synthetic material. Afterward, the tooth is restored with a crown or filling for protection. Saving the natural tooth with root canal therapy has many advantages:
When is a root canal therapy needed?
Symptoms that could indicate that root canal therapy is needed include:
- Severe toothache pain upon chewing or application of pressure.
- Prolonged sensitivity (pain) to hot or cold temperatures.
- Darkening of the tooth.
- Swollen or tender gums near the infected area.
- Pus-filled pimples around the gum.
- Abscess in the jawbone (visible on an x-ray).
- A foul smell or taste emanating from the infected tooth.
Is root canal therapy painful?
Most people associate having a root canal with a lot of pain and discomfort, but the reality is that it doesn’t cause pain but relieves it. Root canal therapy causes no more discomfort than a filling would. Modern technology has made this treatment a virtually pain-free experience that usually lasts about 1-2 hours, which means that root canal therapy can be completed in one visit (although sometimes, a second appointment may be needed).
Are there alternatives to a root canal?
When there’s an infected or inflamed tooth root, root canal therapy is best preferred because this way, patients can preserve their natural teeth. An alternative to this treatment is a dental extraction. Still, apart from losing your teeth, you might end up spending more money long term than what you initially estimated, since a dental extraction is usually followed by an implant to replace the missing tooth.
If you want to avoid the need for root canal therapy in the future, make sure to keep your mouth decay-free by brushing and flossing every day, avoiding sugary drinks and foods, and having regular professional cleanings and exams.