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Root Canal

Root Canal Quick Overview

  • What is a root canal? “Root canal” is a layman's term to describe a dental procedure that is performed to preserve a tooth that is at risk of being lost due to deep decay, infection, or other forms of trauma.
  • “Endodontic therapy” or “root canal treatment” are the dental terms to describe this procedure.
  • Root canal treatment is the removal of the infection-prone contents within the tooth and its roots.
  • Subsequently, the resulting space is filled with an inert material to prevent infection. This treatment thoroughly disinfects the tooth's inner space.
  • Root canal treatment enables a tooth to remain intact to function and serve its purpose in the mouth despite losing its vitality. Vitality is the tooth's ability to sense pain, pressure, or temperature.
  • Prior to the implementation of root canal treatment, if a tooth had a large cavity or was abscessed, the only option was extraction of the “bad tooth.”

Tooth Anatomy

Within each tooth exists a pulp chamber and a root canal system that house the vital contents (pulp) of blood vessels, nerves, and connective tissue. The pulp chamber is a wide hollow space that is located within the visible crown portion of the tooth. The pulp chamber connects into the narrower canal spaces that are found within the root portion of the tooth. The anatomy of the root canal system can be very complex. Single-rooted teeth such as the incisors usually have at least one canal while multi-rooted teeth such as molars have at least one canal in each root. In root canal treatment, every single canal space of the involved tooth must be found and properly treated for the success of the procedure.

Last Reviewed 11/17/2017

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Root Canal Pain and Recovery

After a root canal, your lips and gums may remain numb for a few hours until the anesthetic wears off. Later you may have throbbing pain, which you can treat with pain medicines, such as ibuprofen, acetaminophen, or a stronger prescription painkiller. Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label. The pain usually lasts only a day or two.

Crowns that seal the top of the tooth and strengthen it may come loose over time. They may need to be repaired, redone, or cemented on again.

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