Root Canals

Root canals are usually needed when infection/disease of the tooth has reached the pulp. The pulp is found within the tooth and is composed of the nerves and blood vessels, the structures that provided sensation and nutrients to the tooth, respectively. The infection can either infiltrate from the periodontal tissues (gum and bone surrounding the tooth) or it comes from decay in the tooth itself. Either way, the pain that results from this infection can present itself in a variety of ways. In some cases, the onset of pain can be an abrupt throbbing pain that will make some people want to visit the emergency room. This is most commonly the case when an acute abscess forms at the end of the root. Sometimes the pain is a mild dull achy pain that comes and goes, and is usually stimulated by cold or hot foods. This condition is called pulpitis (inflammation of the pulp), and can be either reversible or irreversible, depending on the severity of the existing infection. In other cases, the tooth has been infected for a long period of time and the patient is no longer having any symptoms, even though the x-rays indicate the presence of an infection. This condition is referred to a necrosis (the tooth is dead).

Root canal treatment involves complete removal of the pulp tissues and irrigation of the remaining space with disinfects, in order to ensure that all bacteria and sources of infection have been removed. The inside of the tooth is then filled with a material called “gutta percha”. If a posterior tooth is being treated, a full coverage crown is usually necessary in order to ensure the tooth is not physically compromised. If a patient comes into the office for an emergency due to severe pain, we usually access the pulp to help relieve the pressure and alleviate the discomfort, then have the patient return to complete the final root canal treatment. If the infection is active at the time of treatment, it is not uncommon for the dentist to prescribe antibiotics to help kill the invading bacteria.