Root canal treatment is a relatively common dental procedure used to save a tooth. The treatment is not generally any more painful than that of putting in a filling, though it is a bit more involved. Most patients recover from a root canal treatment without any trouble and the tooth is usually saved for the duration of the person’s life.
Before beginning root canal treatment, a dentist or endodontist takes an x-ray of the affected tooth. This x-ray gives them information about the depth and shape of the root. Additionally, the dentist gets an indication of whether an infection in the tooth has spread into the jaw bone, which may require additional treatment.
An anesthetic is injected into the gums around the tooth before any drilling or filing is done. This is to protect the patient from pain and discomfort during the procedure. After the area is numb, the affected tooth is isolated.
All of the pulp in the tooth is extracted during root canal treatment. This material is found in the center and through the root of the tooth. When removed, the tooth is left with a hollow chamber in its center, which is called the root canal.
The dentist uses a drill to form a small hole in the tooth. In molars, this hole is made on the upper or lower surface. On front teeth, the hole is made on the back side of the tooth. Once the dentist has drilled a hole into the root canal, he is able to extract the pulp.
The process of extracting the pulp in root canal treatment is done using a series of files. The dentist begins with a small file and works up through progressively larger ones which allow him to scrape out the insides of the root canal. In between scrapings, a liquid solution is pushed into the tooth in order to help flush out the pulp.
After the pulp of the tooth is extracted, the next step in root canal treatment is to fill the cavity and seal the hole. The dentist might choose to wait a week or so before filling the root canal, especially if there was an infection that needs to be treated. In this case, the dentist will fill the affected tooth with antibiotic and have the patient return at a later date. Once it is filled with a rubber compound, the tooth is covered with a filling, crown, or other restorative fixture.