Root canals are a type of dental procedure that is used to remove the soft, living material from the inside of a tooth. This is done when the pulp has become infected, leading to the possible development of an abscess which could cause serious damage and swelling to the mouth, tooth and face. A root canal may also be necessary as a preventative measure before attaching a crown or inlay.
A root canal begins with an x-ray. The dentist must determine the exact state of the tooth before beginning. Once satisfied with the information, the dentist will next numb the area to be worked on. An access hole is drilled into the tooth, into the root canal. Next, using a series of increasingly wide tools called root canal files, the sides of the pulp chamber are cleaned and all soft material removed from inside of the tooth.
The chamber is then filled with a special substance that will stop bacteria from entering the area and causing an infection in the future. From this point, either a filling is used to seal the tooth or a second procedure can be started to attach a crown or other restorative piece.
Most patients can return to a normal routine the next day. If some pain is experienced, this can be treated with over the counter pain medication. In some rare cases, there may be an infection that requires special antibiotics or additional trips to the dentist. A root canal will last for many years, especially if it is used as a base for a larger restoration.