Root canal treatment, also known as endodontics, is usually done to save a tooth when the nerve and blood vessels in the center of the tooth, which form the dental pulp, die, resulting in the tooth becoming infected. The infection is generally caused when the tooth decays, either because of a fracture of the tooth, or sepsis under the filling. A broken or loose filling may also result in the tooth pulp getting infected.

If left untreated, the infection can cause an abscess in the tooth, resulting in swelling, pain, and even the jawbone getting infected. Apart from root canal, the only other alternative is to extract the affected tooth. Even though many people often prefer getting their infected tooth extracted, most dental experts recommend keeping as many natural teeth as possible. Root canal treatment does just that, its aim being to avoid removing teeth whenever possible. Prior to the procedure, antibiotics are usually given to deal with any infection both inside the tooth, as well as the surrounding tissues, such as the bone.

When the tooth's pulp is dead or is in the process of dying, and the chamber of the pulp gets infected, the natural defenses of the body are unable to combat the infection because there is no circulation left in the tooth.

  1. Examination and Anesthetization: The dentist usually starts by using a low current to check if the tooth is dead. If the patient feels nothing, it implies that the nerve is no longer alive, and that the procedure can be carried out without using anesthesia. If it is found that the nerve is still alive, a local anesthesia will be applied on the tooth along with the surrounding area.
  2. Drilling into the Tooth: Then, the dentist will use a drill in order to access the pulp to be able to remove the inflamed or dead tissue. If it is a front tooth that is being worked upon, it will be drilled from behind, and if it is a molar, the drilling will be done from the top of the tooth.
  3. Removing the Insides: Different sizes of rasps are used to remove the tissue from inside the tooth. The process can be quite time-consuming because the root of a tooth often has several thin extensions and smaller branches. During the procedure, the cavity will be cleansed occasionally to clear out the loosened material. Once the cavity is cleared, the tooth will be disinfected so that there is no recurrence of the inflammation.
  4. The Filling: Next, a rubbery paste is used to fill the cavity, and then the drilled hole is sealed. Gutta-percha, which is a whitish rubber obtained from coagulating the milky latex from trees of the same name, is the rubber that is used for the filling. This rubber comes in sticks of various thickness and length. The sticks are heated, which causes them to amalgamate and fill the cavity in the tooth.

The treatment could involve several visits, hence, while it is ongoing, it is advisable not to chew or bite down, especially on foods that are hard or tough. Your restored tooth will be free of pain once the treatment is completed, although it may feel a little sensitive for a number of days. Over-the-counter painkillers like Ibuprofen or Paracetamol can be used to lessen the discomfort. However, if the swelling or pain lasts longer than it should, you should consult your dentist. Most people are under the misapprehension that this treatment method is painful. However, this perception is due to the past operations, when they were actually painful. But these days, they are no longer painful due to newer anesthetics and technologies.

The teeth, which have had their roots filled, are usually more brittle than the live ones. In order to protect the remains of the structure of the tooth, dentists sometimes suggest putting a crown on the tooth. As long as oral hygiene is maintained, and you consult your dentist immediately if there is any pain, a restored crown or tooth usually lasts for many years without requiring any further treatment, often even lasting a lifetime.

Disclaimer: This Buzzle article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.