A root canal is needed when decay (bacteria) or a large restoration has irritated the nerve in the tooth causing irreversible pulpitis (inflammation of the nerve) or an abscess. Symptoms that occur are:
- Intermittent or constant throbbing pain
- Sensitivity to hot/cold that persists for a period of time
- Sensitivity to chewing or biting
- A fistula or bubble forms above the tooth and drains pus (tastes salty)
A root canal is performed by removing both the decay and the nerve from the tooth. The nerve is then replaced with a filling. At this point, the tooth is considered dead and no longer has a blood supply or nutrients supplying the tooth. This makes the tooth vulnerable to breakage because it becomes very brittle. To prevent breakage, usually a crown is placed over the tooth.(see Crowns for more information.)
Here are some common questions about Root Canal :
How many visits does a root canal take?
Depending on the tooth, it takes between 1-3 visits.
Do root canals work?
Yes, if the tooth is properly restored. When a root canal is completed a temporary filling is usually placed. A subsequent visit is needed to remove the temporary filling and place a permanent one in its place. The tooth is then ready for a crown.If the permanent filling and crown are not placed, then the tooth can break. This can lead to tooth loss.