Nothing inspires fear like a root canal (a.k.a. rrrrrrrooooootttttt!!!!!!! canal), but in fact this is a relatively innocuous procedure.  Once in a blue moon a root canal will be painful, and the dental problem requiring the root canal can be excruciating, but the treatment itself is generally no worse than a crown or filling—it’s certainly less traumatic than an extraction.  The procedure can be somewhat tedious, however.

Root canals are needed for a variety of reasons.  Most commonly, a cavity or fracture of the tooth will expose the nerve; this is usually very painful, and the tooth may become infected.  Sometimes so much of the tooth is gone (decay, fracture, wear) that there’s not enough to grab with a crown or filling; a root canal allows us to put a “post” in the root and make a better foundation.  For teeth used under dentures or partials, a root canal is necessary to allow for the little clip holding the denture.  And sometimes, for inexplicable reasons, a tooth will just die, and a root canal is needed to eliminate the abscess.

Treatment involves removing all the live or dead material from the center of the roots, enlarging the canals, and then rinsing with disinfectant for approximately 30 minutes.  Finally, the canal are sealed and a temporary filling is placed—this last varies depending on the status of the tooth.  Most root canal teeth will need posts and crowns to restore them—a lot of the tooth was already gone, and the root canal procedure makes what remains hollow.  The link below shows X-rayhs of a typical root canal tooth.  The first film is the tooth with an active abscess—the dark area around the root tips.  The second image is the tooth immediately after treatment; the old filling is still present.  And the final image was taken several months after the root canal was completed.  At this point, the abscess has resolved and the tooth has been restored with a crown.

Root Canal Photo Sequence

If you are scheduled for a root canal, please print out our endodontic consent form, read it, and bring it with you to your appointment so you can discuss any questions you have before you sign it.