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Root Canal - Overview

A root canal treatment is a dental procedure performed to repair and save a tooth that is seriously damaged by decay or infection. With this dental procedure the tooth can be saved from extraction. A root canal treatment includes removal of the nerve and pulp, cleaning of the tooth cavity and finally sealing of the opening.

This procedure is necessary in case that bacteria start to multiply within the pulp chamber. They are the source of infection and accesses. Swelling caused by these two processes may be rather severe and affect the surrounding tissues of the face, neck and head.

The symptoms which may point to the presence of the severe infection of the pulp and abscess include intensive toothache, especially, upon chewing or application of pressure, prolonged sensitivity or pain to heat and cold temperatures, discoloration and darkening of the tooth, swelling and tenderness of the surrounding gums. These symptoms are indicators that the tooth pump together with the nerve must be removed in order to prevent further spread of infection.

During the Procedure

A root canal is performed by dentist or endodontist. Firstly, the patient undergoes X-ray of the affected tooth. This is performed to assess the shape of the root canal and determine if the surrounding bone is affected by the infection. Prior the procedure the patients are given local anesthesia. To drain the excess of saliva and ease the process the dentist places a rubber dam in patient's mouth. The affected tooth is drilled, the pulp and the decayed nerve tissue and accompanying debris are removed from the tooth. The hole is then further cleaned by root canal files. During this step of the procedure the hole is occasionally flushed with water or sodium hypochlorite. After the cleaning is done the tooth is sealed. The tooth may be sealed the very day of the procedure or at the next appointment. In the meantime the tooth is closed with a medication or a temporary filling. This prevents entrance of contaminants into the hole in the tooth.

Recovery Time for Root Canal

The recovery time for root canal procedure is around three to four days if there are no complications. After a day the tooth may be sensitive. This can be explained by natural tissue inflammation. Patients who complained about the pain prior the procedure are more prone to experience this sensation after root canal. Increased sensitivity can be easily brought under control with over-the counter pain medications (ibuprofen, naproxen etc.). Patients can turn to their normal every day activities the following day.

Until the procedure is completely performed (until the permanent filling is placed) patients are advised to minimize chewing on the tooth under repair. This preventive measure is necessary and the tooth will be saved from breaking before being completely restored. Oral hygiene is supposed to be properly maintained and it includes regular brushing and flossing.

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