Root Canal (Endodontic) Treatment

Every tooth is hollow in the center. The hollow space is filled with pulp tissue (a combination of nerves, blood vessels and fibrous tissue). If a tooth has three roots then there are three hollow spaces all connected together. Some teeth have one, two, three and sometimes four roots. However, if a cavity gets too deep it can eventually irritate the pulp tissue. If the pulp is irritated or infected it needs to be removed through root canal treatment.

Dr. Bruce Terry, PDA member and endodontist from Wayne, answers some frequently asked questions about root canal treatment often asked by his patients.

FAQs

How is root canal treatment performed?

The dentist drills out the cavity just like when you have a cavity removed and filled. Only this time the dentist will drill into the hollow center of the tooth. Special drills are used to remove the pulp tissue. Once all of the pulp tissue is removed, the hollow spaces are filled with a cement and plastic mixture to seal and prevent future root infections.

Does it hurt?
Dentists use lidocaine (local anesthetic) to numb the area.

What are my other options?
Because root canal treatment is 95 percent successful, saving your tooth is usually the best option. Other options include a filling only or extraction of the tooth.

What needs to be done after root canal treatment?
It's very important to have a permanent filling and sometimes a crown placed over a tooth with recent root canal treatment. If the tooth is not properly restored it will get reinfected and the root canal treatment will have to be repeated.

Resources

The American Association of Endodontists
American Dental Association: Root Canals (Endodontic Treatment)
News Release: Painful Root Canals are a Thing of the Past