Treatment involves one or more visits, depending on the the number of canals present in the tooth. Inside of every tooth is a portion called the pulp, an area full of blood vessels and nerve tissue. When a tooth decays to the point that the pulp is infected, a root canal becomes necessary. When left untreated, this decay can cause damage to the jaw bone. A root canal clears out the infection and fills in the gap to prevent future damage. There are several steps in the process of endodontic treatment that your general dentist or endodontist will perform to save your tooth. When done right, a proper root canal saves the tooth, alleviates pain and prevents further damage to the tooth and jaw.
How is it done?
First, local anesthesia using lidocaine will be applied to numb the tooth. After applying local anesthesia, the dentist removes the decayed and infected portions of the tooth and pulp (nerve of the tooth). Next the dentist will locate each root canal and proceed to clean and shape them. After all the canals in the tooth are disinfected, the dentist then fills in the canals with a soft rubbery material called gutta-percha, which is made from a tree called, Palaquium gutta. This material is highly biocompatible and does not react within the human body, and it is used in various surgical devices. Other medicaments may be placed in the pulp chamber and root canals to eliminate bacteria. Next a temporary filling may be placed to prevent contamination from saliva. Your dentist will likely prescribe antibiotics if infection is present and has spread beyond the end of the roots of the tooth involved. The tooth is now ready for a crown.
After the root canal, the temporary filling is removed and the tooth may be restored with a crown or an onlay to strengthen it and improve its appearance. A crown may be made of porcelain or zirconia, and the core building fill material may be made of many different materials, including glass ionomer and composite. If an endodontist performs the root canal treatment, he or she will usually recommend that you return to your general dentist for the final restoration.