Going for a first root canal is no easy task. Patients are usually filled with apprehension about the procedure as it’s quite involved. Pain during and after the procedure, anxiety about the likelihood of losing a tooth and the associated cost of doing root canals, are some of the main issues that patients are usually concerned about.

Below is a thorough overview of endodontic treatment which should answer any concerns you have regarding getting a root canal.

What happens to your teeth to make you need a root canal?

Housed within your tooth is the pulp chamber, which contains living tissue such as blood vessels, tissue and nerves. The pulp assists in tooth development during childhood. The pulp can get infected as a result of factors like extensive tooth decay, gum disease and damage, such as cracking or chipping.

The infection will cause the pulp to swell and the resulting pressure from the swelling is what causes pain. If the infected tooth is not treated in the early stages of the pain, it will spread to the apex (the tip of the root) and cause a severe infection. Endodontic treatment helps to save such a tooth. If you have a fracture that reaches the pulp, it might be difficult to save a tooth, in which case other treatment procedures are used.

Who performs endodontic (root canal) treatment?

Though general dentists can perform endodontic treatment, some of them will refer you to an endodontist, who’s more specialized in performing the procedure.

The process

Before the root canal is performed, you might need to undergo initial treatment to remove decay and eliminate what is causing the infection. After that, the treatment will proceed as follows:

Step 1 – Administer anesthetic

To numb the tooth and tissue, anesthetic is first administered. Treatment will not begin until your dentist is sure that the tooth is numb.

Step 2 – Dental dam

The dentist will then put a dental dam in place to isolate the area to be treated. A dental dam is made of vinyl or rubber and when it’s put in place, the infected tooth will protrude from the dam while all other teeth remain hidden.

The purpose of the dam is to prevent contamination by bacteria in the mouth and saliva.

Step 3 – Drilling the tooth

The dentist will drill a hole into the tooth where the tooth is being treated. For a back tooth, the hole is drilled into the biting surface where a front tooth is drilled from behind.

Step 4 – Cleaning

The dentist will clean out infection in the pulp chamber and root canals using specialized instruments.  You will not feel any pain.

Step 5 – Disinfecting

After all infection has been removed, antibacterial solutions are applied to disinfect the canals and pulp chamber.

Step 6 – Filling and sealing the canal

Before the canals are filled and sealed, they are prepared using little filing instruments. Gutta-percha, and sealer will then be added to fill the prepared canals. Sealing prevents reinfection.

Step 7-Filling the access hole

The dentist will then fill the access hole and remove the dental dam.

Step 8 – Crown placement

Usually, after a root canal is performed, a crown is fitted to

  • Provide strength to the deteriorated tooth.
  • Completely seal the tooth and prevent infection.

Step 9 – Prescriptions and after care

To prevent infection after the procedure, the dentist may prescribe antibiotics. You might feel minor discomfort but you can treat it with painkillers. Exercise extra care of your gums, teeth and mouth to prevent future infections.