Root canal treatment (also called a root canal) is done when decay will likely damage or has already killed a tooth. During root canal or endodontic treatment, the inflamed or infected pulp is removed and the inside of the tooth is carefully cleaned and disinfected, then filled and sealed with a rubber-like material called gutta-percha. Afterwards, the tooth is restored with a crown or filling for protection.
What Are the Signs That Root Canal Therapy Is Needed?
Signs you may need root canal therapy include:
1. Severe toothache pain upon chewing or application of pressure
2. Prolonged sensitivity (pain) to hot or cold temperatures (after the heat or cold has been removed)
3. Discoloration (darkening) of the tooth
4. Swelling and tenderness in nearby gums
5. A persistent or recurring pimple on the gums
Sometimes no symptoms are present.
What Should One Expect After Root Canal Therapy?
Root canal therapy should relieve the pain you feel. Until your root canal procedure is completely finished -- that is, the permanent filling is in place and a crown, if needed, is in place -- it's wise to minimize chewing on the tooth under repair. This step will help avoid recontaminating the tooth’s interior and also may prevent a fragile tooth from breaking before the tooth can be fully restored.
For the first few days following the completion of treatment, the tooth may feel sensitive due to natural tissue inflammation, especially if there was pain or infection before the procedure. This sensitivity or discomfort usually can be controlled with over-the-counter pain medications such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) or naproxen (Aleve). Most patients can return to their normal activities the next day.
As far as oral health care is concerned, brush and floss as you regularly would, and see your dentist at normally scheduled intervals. Because the final step of root canal therapy is application of a restoration such as a crown or a filling, it will not be obvious to onlookers that a root canal was performed.
Root canal treatment is highly successful; the procedure has more than a 95% success rate. Many teeth fixed with root canal therapy can last a lifetime.