Root canals (endodontics) are a treatment of the central pulp of the tooth. Each tooth has a central, hollow core in which there are tiny blood vessels and the tooth’s nerve fibers. When injury (trauma or decay) causes this tissue to become infected or die the decaying tissue often becomes infected, and like most infections, swells. Since it is totally surrounded by solid tooth structure the only place the infection can go is into the jawbone. Pus fills the small space between the tooth and the jawbone causing discomfort.
The dentist can relieve this pressure, remove the diseased tissue and fill the hollow central core with a special filling material which prevents the bacteria from finding a place to grow inside the tooth.
After your dentist has determined that a root-canal is necessary you will be scheduled an appointment for initial treatment or, if you can’t wait, you will be seen that day. During the first appointment your dentist will numb the jaw and clean, shape and disinfect the hollow core of the tooth. A medication will be placed in the tooth to reduce discomfort and kill the bacteria. A temporary filling will be placed over the opening so that food and bacteria do not re-enter the tooth.
Your dentist will probably prescribe medication for the infection as well as for any possible discomfort. You may find that because the pressure from the internal swelling has been relieved that the pain medication is not necessary. However, if your dentist prescribes an antibiotic then please be sure to take the entire dosage as prescribed.
At the second appointment the dentist will remove the temporary filling and medication and re-cleanse the hollow core. If the infection and swelling in your jawbone is under control your dentist will fill that hollow portion of the tooth with an inert material especially designed to protect the tooth and prevent any infection from returning inside that tooth.
Now that the root canal is finished you can breath more easily. Over 95% of the time the tooth recovers just the way we want, and the discomfort is behind you. However your tooth is still useful as are the roots. But because the tooth no longer has any nutrients to it, brittleness can be a problem.
Usually a large portion of the tooth is missing due to decay or necessary access openings into the hollow core. The tooth must now be strengthened and any missing portions restored. A crown (or cap) must now be made to protect your tooth from further decay and breakage.