Root Canals

What is Root Canal Therapy?

Root canal therapy (also known as endodontic treatment) is a routine dental procedure that can help save a tooth with too much infection or decay to fix with a filling. It is most commonly used to treat abscessed teeth, which occurs when a bacterial infection from an untreated cavity, injury, or previous dental work has caused a pocket of pus (an abscess) to develop at the tooth’s root. A dental abscess will not go away on its own and can lead to tooth loss or other serious health complications if untreated.

Root canals are also necessary to treat:

  • Problems from previous fillings
  • Deep cavities
  • Cracked teeth resulting from injury or genetics
A teenager learns to properly brush at dental depot

Root canals can be performed by general dentists or endodontists and are one of the many restorative procedures offered at Dental Depot. With an 80-95% success rate for most patients and results lasting a lifetime, root canal therapy is one of the best ways Dental Depot helps Oklahomans preserve their natural teeth and health.

Root canals save teeth by cleaning out the infected or decayed dental pulp from inside the tooth, and saving a natural but decayed, infected, or deteriorated tooth is always preferred over extracting it. There are myriad benefits to saving a natural tooth, such as:

  • Natural appearance
  • Efficient chewing
  • Normal biting force and sensation
  • Sustained jaw stimulation for healthy bone density (preventing deterioration in the jaw bone)
  • Protects other teeth from excessive wear or strain
  • It prevents other teeth from shifting

The dental pulp is the collection of tissue, nerves, and blood vessels located within the center of the tooth and is necessary for the tooth to grow and develop properly. However, fully developed permanent teeth no longer need the dental pulp inside, so cleaning out the infected pulp doesn’t affect its ability to stay healthy.

The Root Canal Procedure

The average root canal procedure takes between 30 and 60 minutes, though the exact duration varies based on the location of the tooth being treated, the extent of the damage, and if the tooth has multiple roots needing treatment.

Here’s what happens during a root canal:

  1.     Your dentist or endodontist injects a local anesthetic into gums and cheek in the infected tooth area. This will ensure you don’t feel any pain or discomfort during the procedure, though you may be awake and feel pressure or vibration from the dental tools.
  2.     The area will be prepped using a plastic drape, cotton, and/or gauze to isolate the infected tooth and keep the area dry from saliva.
  3.     Once your mouth is numb, the dentist will drill a small hole into the tooth’s center to expose the abscessed pulp and tooth roots.
  4.     The infected tissue is removed, and the space in the tooth is cleaned using an antibacterial solution.
  5.     The inside of the tooth is sealed with a material that is heated and pressed into the walls of the tooth.
  6.     The tooth is filled with resin and covered with a temporary crown, which will prevent any additional damage and keep out any new bacteria while the tooth heals until a permanent crown is placed.
  7.     A permanent crown is placed over the tooth in one to two weeks to restore the tooth’s functionality and strength fully.

After your root canal procedure, you may experience discomfort or swelling, especially as the numbing agent wears off, but you should not have any severe pain. You should be able to manage any pain with over-the-counter anti-inflammatories or cold or warm compresses. You may also be prescribed an antibiotic to ensure the infection is completely resolved. Most patients can return to school or work directly after their root canal but are encouraged to limit strenuous activity until the next day.

You will likely want to stick to soft foods in the first 24 hours after your root canal to avoid biting your lip or tongue, which may still be numb, and avoid sticky or crunchy foods that could dislodge the temporary crown. If the temporary crown falls out, the inside of your tooth is exposed, which could impact how well it heals and leave it vulnerable to bacteria and food that could get stuck in it. If this happens, call your dentist immediately so he or she can clean out the tooth and replace the crown.

A follow-up appointment will be scheduled for one to two weeks after your root canal, during which the dentist will make sure everything is healing properly and replace the temporary crown with a permanent one.

What happens if my root canal doesn’t work?

Although infrequent, there are times when a root canal fails, usually because of one of the following reasons:

  • The crown has broken, fallen out, or loosened
  • An infection has developed at the root of the tooth
  • Not all of the infected tissue or bacteria was removed during the original treatment
  • The treated tooth has sustained damage, such as a crack or fracture

If your root canal fails, you will need either endodontic treatment—simply another root canal—or an apicoectomy. An apicoectomy is like a reverse root canal—the infected tissue is accessed and removed from the bottom of the tooth root, and the tip of the root is sealed.

Trust Dental Depot for Your Root Canal Procedure

Root canals are an important restorative procedure that can make the difference between saving and replacing a natural tooth. Infected, abscessed, or severely decayed teeth can compromise your oral and your overall health, and they won’t go away on your own; with routine cleanings and checkups and services like fillings, crowns, and root canals, Dental Depot helps more Oklahomans keep a healthy smile for a lifetime. And with offices in Oklahoma City, Norman, and Tulsa, many with flexible scheduling and Saturday appointments, Dental Depot makes it easy for everyone in your family to get the care you need when needed.

Schedule your appointment today and trust Dental Depot with the exceptional dental care you deserve.

Root Canal FAQs

What is the root canal of the tooth?

In order to understand how root canal therapy works, it’s important to first understand the anatomy of your teeth.

Teeth have four basic parts, three of which work to protect the innermost section called the pulp chamber. The enamel is the hardest substance in the human body. Enamel a thin, protective covering for the dentin within and is what you think of as your tooth. Below the gums, another protective layer called cementum works to cover the roots of the teeth.

The pulp chamber is where the nerves and blood vessels of your tooth are contained, and help to support the tooth within the jawbone. Depending on which tooth needs treatment, there can be between one and four roots. If trauma or infection gets past these protective barriers and into the pulp chamber, a root canal may be needed to restore your oral health.

When do I need a root canal procedure?

If the pulp of the tooth experiences inflammation, infection or trauma – usually caused by severe decay, repeated procedures on that tooth – a root canal may be needed to save the tooth. If left untreated, the pulp may cause pain and cause an abscess to form.

Some common symptoms patients experience before a root canal diagnosis often include:

  • Intense pain when biting down or chewing
  • Pimples on the gums
  • Chips or cracks in the enamel
  • Lasting sensitivity to cold, heat, or even sweet, long after the sensation has been removed
  • Swollen or painful gums
  • Deep decay or tooth darkening around the gum line

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it’s best to contact your dentist for an exam to determine the cause of your pain and discomfort.

How can a root canal save your tooth?

Once your permanent teeth are in, you no longer need the pulp for the tooth to thrive and so it is possible to clean out the pulp chamber and save your tooth. Sometimes root canal therapy is combined with a crown if too much of the tooth’s outer surface is decayed or damaged. Most root canal treatments take between two to three visits to complete.

Here’s how it works:

  1. An exam and x-rays will help the dentist determine the depth of your tooth’s roots.
  2. We’ll get you numb to help you from feeling any pain during your visit.
  3. A protective barrier is fitted around the tooth that needs treatment and will protect it from both saliva and bacteria during the procedure.
  4. Any existing decay is removed and an opening is created in the crown of the tooth.
  5. During the procedure, the tooth is flushed out, cleaned and dried as many times as necessary to prevent infection-causing bacteria.
  6. Using a special file, your dentist carefully removes the pulp from the root canal channels and gets it into shape.
  7. A body-friendly material is used to fill in the canals to maintain their shape. If the tooth lacks sufficient structure, sometimes a small post is placed in with the filling material to better support the future crown.
  8. A filling will be placed to seal the interior of the tooth – if your root canal needs a crown, this filling is temporary and will be replaced when the final crown arrives.
  9. Once the final crown is in place, you’ll be able to eat, speak and smile comfortably for years to come.

Because every patient is unique, sometimes teeth with especially difficult-shaped roots will need to be referred to an endodontist, or a dentist who specializes exclusively in root canals.

Visit our Root Canal FAQ page for more information on root canals. 

Request appointment at: