Ross Allen, DDS

FAQs: Root Canal Treatment

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Here are some commonly asked questions from our patients over the years.  Do you have other questions?  Email us now and we'd be happy to respond!

Root Canal Treatment

A root canal is a treatment used to repair and save a tooth that is badly decayed or becomes infected. During a root canal procedure, the nerve and pulp are removed and the inside of the tooth is cleaned and sealed. Without treatment, the tissue surrounding the tooth will become infected and abscesses may form.  "Root canal" is the term used to describe the natural cavity within the center of the tooth.

The pulp or pulp chamber is the soft area within the root canal. The tooth's nerve lies within the root canal.  A tooth's nerve is not vitally important to a tooth's health and function after the tooth has emerged through the gums. Its only function is sensory – to provide the sensation of hot or cold. The presence or absence of a nerve will not affect the day-to-day functioning of the tooth.

Sometimes no symptoms are present; however, signs to look for include

  • Severe toothache pain upon chewing or application of pressure
  • Prolonged sensitivity/pain to heat or cold temperatures (after the hot or cold has been removed)
  • Discoloration (a darkening) of the tooth
  • Swelling and tenderness in the nearby gums
  • A persistent or recurring pimple on the gums

The vast majority of root canal procedures proceed painlessly, both during and after each visit!  With modern techniques and anesthetics people report that having a root canal treatment is about the same as having a cavity filled.  On the other hand, some people present with what we call a hot tooth.  A hot tooth is one in which the nerve is alive, but badly inflamed.  The tooth is generally already very painful, especially to hot or cold stimuli.  These are the ones that require multiple anesthetic injections to get numb.

Root Canal Therapy (Endodontic treatment) is necessary when the nerve (pulp) becomes inflamed or infected.  The most common reasons for inflammation or infection are deep cavities, repeated dental procedures, cracks or chips.  Trauma can also cause inflammation and often shows up as discoloration of the tooth.  If pulp inflammation or infection is left untreated, it can cause pain or lead to an abscess.

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