Root Canals: Understanding the 3 Steps of this Dental Procedure

Root CanalsWhen most people hear the term root canal, they think of an extremely painful and disagreeable procedure. And while it’s true that understanding how to avoid a root canal in the first place can save you some trouble, the fact is that the procedure is far less unpleasant than it used to be. Understanding how root canals work can help set your mind at ease and lessen any anxiety you may feel about undergoing the procedure.

What is a Root Canal?

A root canal is a dental procedure that is performed when a tooth becomes damaged to the point where the soft tissue inside the tooth becomes inflamed or infected. During the procedure, the soft tissue is removed, and the area is cleaned, disinfected, and refilled. Despite their reputation, root canals are straightforward and relatively pain-free.

A root canal is performed in three steps:

1. Diagnosis.

The diagnosis usually occurs when a patient goes to their dentist complaining of a toothache. An x-ray or radiograph is typically taken to evaluate the soft tissue (or pulp) on the tooth, which will most times show that the tooth has become infected. Sometimes a three-dimensional image (CBCT) will be taken to help in diagnosis if the radiograph is unclear on which tooth is the culprit. 

2. Removing the Infected Pulp.

The procedure begins with drilling a small opening in the top of the damaged tooth to access the infected pulp and root canals. Then mechanical and chemical treatments are used to clean out the root canals, removing any infected pulp and disinfecting the area. To seal the void that has been left after removal of the pulp tissue, the dentist will then insert a filler into the root canals called gutta-percha. When the procedure is finished, a temporary filling will be placed into the small opening created in the tooth.

3. Placing a Crown.

After the root canal is completed and symptoms have been alleviated, typically a crown is done to help maintain the tooth long term. The dentist will remove the temporary filling, placing the final core build up within the small access hole made during the root canal and prepare the tooth for a crown.By practicing good oral hygiene, you can go a long way toward preventing the need for a root canal. However, sometimes the procedure becomes unavoidable. If this is the case, don’t panic. It’s a relatively straightforward operation with a great track record of success.