Root Canal Treatment: Know Before You Go


What is a root canal?

A root canal treatment is a dental procedure that removes the infection of a damaged tooth which would otherwise end up needing to be removed. In other words, it is dentists’ last attempt to save a severely damaged tooth before considering its extraction.

The main objective of this procedure is to remove the dental pulp that bacteria have infected. The dental pulp is the inner soft tissue that keeps teeth alive, so when bacteria attack it, this tissue reacts with inflammation and pain. Unfortunately, there’s no way to treat this infection but to extirpate this soft tissue and replace it with a synthetic material.

After the procedure, the tooth is no longer “alive” but can still serve its aesthetic and functional purposes – two of the most important root canal treatment benefits.

How do you know if you need a root canal?

Unfortunately, there aren’t many signs that can help patients prevent root canal therapy. Before talking about prevention, however, it is important to understand why you might need this treatment. The two main reasons why our team recommends root canal therapies are:

  • Dental trauma
  • Untreated dental decay

In both cases, the pulp is exposed to bacteria, and once the infection has begun, there’s no way back. Until the pulp reacts with pain, the patient doesn’t know what’s going on inside the tooth. Consequently, most patients only find out that they need a root canal when the tooth hurts, and at that point, it’s already too late to save the tooth with a filling or a more straightforward procedure.

That’s why it is so important to visit the office regularly for check-ups and cleanings. If dental problems are spotted on time, they can be solved almost immediately with simple interventions.

What are the 3 stages of root canal treatment?

Root canal therapy is usually divided into 3 stages:

  • Extirpation: this stage aims to remove all the infected dental pulp housed inside the teeth. It is critical, as the tooth should be bacteria-free before being filled to avoid future reinfections.
  • Instrumentation: once the tooth is deeply cleaned, the dentist uses small files to reshape the canals. The objective of this stage is to give the tooth a predetermined shape that is compatible with the material that is later used to seal the canals.
  • Obturation: this last stage of the treatment is also crucial. During the obturation, the dentist fills the canal with gutta-percha, a thermoplastic and biocompatible material, to make sure it is perfectly sealed.

These stages can be completed in one, two, or even three clinical sessions. The number of appointments will depend on the complexity of the case: molars take more time than front teeth, and there are some cases in which the infection is so severe that the dentist prefers to break the treatment into the different sections to evaluate the healing of the tooth.

What to Ask Before Agreeing to Treatment

The most important aspect to understand about root canals is that although the treated tooth is healthy and infection-free again, the restoration doesn’t end there: the tooth will need either a filling or a dental crown afterwards to restore its function and look. It is essential to discuss this with your dentist before even starting the treatment.

The choice between the crown and the filling will depend on how damaged the tooth was before the root canal therapy. Root canal treatment cost depends on the tooth (molars are more expensive than front teeth) and complexity (some cases require more chair time than others). Still, this final restoration also affects the treatment’s final cost, so it is important to discuss it before agreeing to therapy.

What to Expect During a Root Canal Procedure

The procedure might vary from case to case, but if you get a root canal, you can expect the following steps:

  • Step 1: anesthesia. Our dentist applies local anesthesia to numb the area and avoid discomfort during the procedure. They also use a rubber dam to isolate the tooth to treat from the rest of your mouth.
  • Step 2: access the hole. The dentist uses the driller to remove the decay and access the inner chamber and canals that house the pulp.
  • Step 3: pulp extirpation. Once the dentist has full vision of the different root canals, they remove the rest of the dental pulp that is contained inside the canals. Then, the tooth is cleaned thoroughly with an antiseptic solution, and the canals are dried with paper points.
  • Step 4: conformation of the canals. The next step is to reshape the canals. For this purpose, our dentist either uses manual files or the driller. Each file is slightly bigger than the previous one, so the canal adopts the exact shape of the last one used.
  • Step 5: obturation. The final step is to fill the canals and seal the tooth. The material used, gutta-percha, is heated until it becomes plastic, pushed inside the canals and adapted to their shapes. Finally, the access hole is covered with a temporary material, which will later be replaced with the final restoration (either a filling or a dental crown).

Ask the Dentist

If you want to learn more about this procedure, or you still have some doubts about root canal treatment effectiveness, contact with our office and schedule a consultation. Our North York dentists will evaluate your case and determine if you need this treatment.