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Root canal therapy is a standard endodontic procedure that removes the infected or damaged pulp from a tooth.
Your teeth are made up of layers. Dentin, the soft layer below your tooth enamel, contains the pulp chamber. The pulp is a gel-like material inside the tooth. It stores the blood vessels, connective tissues, and tooth nerves and provides sensation.
If the pulp of the tooth is damaged, it may cause:
A root canal procedure can generally be performed in one to four appointments.
During the first appointment, the doctor will:
The dentist cleans and shapes the treated tooth’s root canals at the second appointment, placing the permanent filling material called gutta percha into the tooth's root.
If necessary, the third and fourth appointments are when a crown, or other restorative dental procedure, is completed to restore the tooth to full function.
Root canal therapy has a high success rate at approximately 95%, and many treated teeth last a lifetime1. However, there’s a slight chance the treated tooth may become re-infected.
Root canal treatment involves removing the infected or damaged pulp from the inner chamber of a tooth. Even though re-infection of the tooth is rare, it can happen.
Knowing the causes and symptoms of a root canal infection can help ensure you receive timely treatment.
The most common root canal infection symptoms include:
Tooth pain can manifest in many ways, including:
Gum swelling and pain are other common symptoms of infected root canals.
The tooth is likely infected if:
Infections can cause bad breath. They may also produce pus that creates a bad taste and smell in your mouth. A dental abscess is a small pus-filled pocket. It looks like a small bump that is swollen and sensitive.
Limited blood flow to a tooth can cause it to have a gray, blue, or dark yellow tone. Localized discoloration may be a sign of an infection that needs to be treated as soon as possible.
Common reasons for complications include:
Sometimes the infected tooth can be saved by retreatment or another root canal. However, endodontic surgery may be necessary.
Apicoectomy is the most common endodontic treatment for a failed root canal. During this procedure, the soft tissue around the tooth root is opened, the infected tissue is extracted, and sometimes the tip of the tooth’s root is removed.
Yes. If not treated promptly, a root canal infection can spread to other parts of the body, including:
A root canal infection won’t go away on its own. Seeking treatment at the earliest signs of a root canal infection can help prevent the infection from spreading.
Call your dentist to schedule another visit if you experience any of the above signs and symptoms of a root canal infection.
Here are some common treatments for root canal infections:
Typically, endodontic retreatment can save a root canal. This procedure is very similar to root canal therapy.
After endodontic retreatment, you must return to your dentist for a permanent crown or other restoration.
Endodontic surgery may be recommended as an alternative or in conjunction with retreatment. You may need surgery if your root canals are blocked or narrow.
Many surgical procedures can save an infected tooth. The most common is an apicoectomy, also known as a root-end resection. During this procedure:
The only alternative to retreatment and surgery is extracting the infected tooth.
The tooth is then replaced with a dental implant, bridge, or partial denture to restore normal function and keep the surrounding teeth in place.
There are many steps you can take to help reduce your risk of reinfection after root canal treatment:
Seeing your dentist twice a year for routine exams and cleanings can help catch infections early and maintain healthy teeth.
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