Root canal treatment (also called a root
canal) is done when decay will likely damage or has already killed a tooth.
During a root canal, a dentist or
endodontist removes the
pulp from the center of a tooth and fills the pulp
cavity. This can prevent the development of a painful infection in the pulp
that may spread to other teeth. A root canal can also treat an infection that
has developed into an
abscessed tooth. This procedure can relieve toothache,
stop infection, and promote healing.
dentist or one who specializes in diseases of tooth
pulp (endodontist) can perform a root canal.
First, the dentist will numb your gums with a
substance that feels like jelly. After your gums are numb, the dentist will
local anesthetic that will completely numb the teeth,
gums, tongue, and skin in that area. Sometimes nitrous oxide gas will be used
to reduce pain and help you relax.
The dentist may separate the
decayed tooth from the other teeth with a small sheet of rubber on a metal
frame. This protective rubber sheet also helps stop liquid and tooth chips from
entering your mouth and throat.
The dentist will use a drill and
other tools to remove the pulp from the tooth and will fill the inside part of
the tooth below the gum line with medicines, temporary filling materials, and a
final root canal filling.
After the root canal, a permanent
crown (cap) is often needed. If a crown is needed, the
dentist removes the decay, and then makes an impression of the tooth. A
technician uses the impression to make a crown that perfectly matches the
The tooth may be fitted with a temporary crown
until the permanent crown is made and cemented into place.
What To Expect After Surgery
After a root canal, your lips and gums
may remain numb for a few hours until the anesthetic wears off. Later you may
have throbbing pain, which you can treat with pain medicines, such as
ibuprofen, acetaminophen, or a stronger prescription painkiller. The pain
usually lasts only a day or two.
Crowns that seal the top of the
tooth and strengthen it may come loose over time. They may need to be repaired,
redone, or cemented on again.
Why It Is Done
A root canal is needed when tooth
decay is likely to cause permanent damage to the pulp or has already done
How Well It Works
A root canal removes the pulp
inside the tooth and replaces it with filling material. It can effectively
treat or prevent an infection.
If you have an infected tooth, bacteria from
the mouth can enter the bloodstream and cause infections in other parts of the
body. People who have a hard time fighting off infections may need to take
antibiotics before and after a root canal. Such people
include those who have artificial heart valves or were born with
What To Think About
Because a root canal removes the
pulp inside the tooth, the tooth becomes more fragile and may break more easily
if it is not covered with a crown or cap.
A root canal needs to be
done as soon as possible to avoid a severe infection, which can damage the bone
surrounding the root of the tooth and infect other teeth.
have a severely decayed or infected tooth, you may not want to go through the
expense and discomfort of a root canal and crown fitting. Instead, you may
choose to have the tooth removed (extracted). The space can be left open or
restored with a fixed or removable
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.