Root Canal Treatment
Getting started on root canal treatment
A root canal is usually done by an endodontist or a general dentist. The root canal usually takes one or two visits, but once in a while additional visits are required because some teeth prove difficult to treat. First, you have dental X-rays to check the extent of damage. You also receive a local anesthetic to control pain, which may be more severe if the tooth is abscessed. Then a rubberlike sheet called a dental dam is put in your mouth to keep the tooth clean, protected and free of saliva. Decay is removed, and an opening is made through the crown of the tooth to gain access to the pulp chamber. Using small dental instruments, the infected or diseased pulp is removed.
Clearing up root canal infection
After the diseased pulp is removed, the pulp chamber and root canals are flushed and cleaned. The root canals may be reshaped and enlarged to allow better access for filling later. Before permanently filling the root canals, they should be clean of all infection and dried. Medication is sometimes put into the pulp chamber and root canal to clear any infection. The tooth may be left open to drain for several days. If infection has spread beyond the tooth, you may need a prescription for antibiotics. If the root canal requires multiple visits, a temporary filling is placed in the crown to protect the tooth and keep out debris and saliva. Avoid biting or chewing on the tooth until it's been treated and restored.
Filling the root canals
After cleaning and drying, it's time to fill the interior of the tooth — the empty pulp chamber and root canals. You may not need additional anesthetic for this step. If you had a temporary filling placed, that will be removed to allow access to the inside of the tooth. A sealer paste and rubber compound is used to fill the tooth, followed by a dental filling to make sure the root canals are protected from saliva.
Final stage of a root canal
The final stage of the root canal is restoring your tooth. Because the tooth typically has a large filling or is weakened from extensive decay, it needs to be protected from future damage and returned to normal function. This is usually done by placing a crown — a realistic-looking artificial tooth. A crown is made of gold, porcelain or porcelain fused to metal. Crowns made of porcelain or porcelain fused to metal can be tinted to match the color of your other teeth. Sometimes, a metal post must first be inserted in the tooth for structural support and to keep the crown in place. Ask your dentist or endodontist about other restoration options.
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