A root canal is a treatment for the center of the tooth that is inflamed, infected, or dead. The center of the tooth, called the pulp, is a soft substance that consists of nerves, blood vessels, and connective tissue. Symptoms of the infection include visible injury or swelling of the tooth and sensitivity to temperature or pain in the tooth and gums. If you experience any of the symptoms, contact your dental office.

Your dentist will take an x-ray of the tooth. If he or she determines that you need a root canal treatment, 1 or 2 appointments will be scheduled based on the size and duration of the abscess and other factors.

Before starting root canal therapy, the doctor will administer local anesthesia to ensure your complete comfort. A dental dam is placed on the infected site to isolate the affected area. A small opening is made through the top of the tooth to gain access to the pulp. The pulp, which is the soft tissue inside the root canal, is removed from the chamber and canals. The canals are then cleaned with a disinfecting solution. X-rays may be taken throughout the procedure to ensure each canal is being adequately treated.

Once the canals are cleaned, they are filled with gutta-percha, a rubber-like material to protect and seal. A temporary filling may be placed in the opening until it can be replaced by a permanent filling. After the root canal is completed, the tooth will need a crown to protect it from fracturing.

After the procedure, your tooth may feel sensitive for the first few days. This discomfort may be relieved with over-the-counter or prescribed pain medications. Avoid chewing on the treated tooth until you have a full restoration.

Root canal therapy can preserve a patient’s tooth for a lifetime. It is a highly successful procedure with more than a 95% success rate.

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