What is root canal?

Root Canal
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Root canal: Overview

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 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.

Root canal treatment

Root canal treatment (also called a root canal) is a dental procedure done to remove the infected core (pulp) of a tooth. This helps relieve toothache, stop infection, and promote healing.

When the pulp is healthy, it feeds the tooth and helps fight infection. When the pulp becomes damaged because of a deep cavity or fracture, infection may develop. The infection can cause pain and lead to the development of an abscess.

How well does a root canal work?

A root canal removes the pulp inside the tooth and replaces it with filling material. It can work well to treat or prevent an infection.

What are the risks of a root canal?

When someone has an infected tooth, bacteria from the mouth can enter the bloodstream and cause infections in other parts of the body. Because of this, some people may be at more risk when having dental procedures such as a root canal. People at risk include those who have artificial heart valves or were born with heart defects. These people may need to take antibiotics before and after a root canal.

What is a root canal?

A root canal treatment is done to repair a tooth that is damaged by tooth decay or is infected. During a root canal, a dentist or specialist (endodontist) removes the pulp from the center of the tooth down to the tip of the root. Then the dentist fills the empty space.

The pulp is the center (core) of a tooth. It contains nerves and blood vessels. When healthy, the pulp feeds the tooth and helps fight infection. But deep tooth decay or a broken tooth can damage the pulp and lead to a painful infection. A root canal helps relieve the pain and may save the tooth. It stops the infection from spreading to other teeth or the gums, and it helps the tooth heal.

What can you expect as you recover from a root canal?

After a root canal, your lips and gums may be numb for a few hours until the anesthetic wears off. Later you may have some pain. You can treat it with pain medicines, such as ibuprofen, acetaminophen, or a stronger prescription painkiller. The pain usually lasts only a day or two.

If your dentist prescribes antibiotics, take them as directed. Do not stop taking them just because you feel better. You'll need to take the full course of antibiotics.

Avoid chewing with the tooth until the crown or filling is in place and the tooth feels better.

How is a root canal done?

The dentist will completely numb the tooth and the area around it. Next, a small drill and other tools are used to remove all the pulp from the tooth. Then the dentist fills the inside of the tooth below the gum line with a filling material.

The root canal may take more than one visit. This depends on the tooth involved and whether it's infected. If the tooth is infected, the dentist will treat the infection first. The pulp space may get medicine and a temporary filling material. At a later visit, the tooth will get permanent filling material.

After the root canal, a filling or crown might be needed. The dentist makes an imprint or uses a computer to make an image of the tooth. Then a crown is made to match the tooth. The tooth may get a temporary crown until the permanent one is made and cemented in place.

Why is a root canal done?

A root canal is needed when tooth decay is likely to cause permanent damage to the pulp or has already done so.

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The content above contains general health information provided by Healthwise, Incorporated, and reviewed by its medical experts. This content should not replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Not all treatments or services described are offered as services by us. For recommended treatments, please consult your healthcare provider.