A root canal is the space within the root of a tooth. This space is filled with a highly vascularized, loose connective tissue, the dental pulp. Root canal therapy is a term for a dental operation, endodontic therapy, wherein the pulp is cleaned out, the space disinfected, and then filled. Root canal treatment is necessary when a cavity is allowed to reach all the way to the pulp. Sometimes deep restorations or trauma to a tooth may cause the pulp to be damaged to the point it needs root canal therapy, also. Once this occurs the pulp becomes infected, and can even extend through the root tip and begin to eat away at the surrounding bone (this is an abscess). By the time the pulp is infected it must be treated, and cannot heal on its own. Symptoms that the pulp has become infected may include sensitivity to hot/cold or sweets, pain, swelling, pain to biting or pressure, and a bad taste in the mouth. Sometimes, however, no symptoms are apparent and the person is unaware of any problem until a checkup.
Is the Procedure Painful?
Often the pain indicating that a person needs a root canal is worse than any pain experienced during the actual procedure. Removing infected pulp relieves pain. There may be some discomfort during the procedure, during application of anesthetic.
How Long Does It Take?
Some people are scared to go and have a needed root canal done because they fear a lengthy procedure that will keep them away from work, family, or whatever obligations they may have. The amount of time required depends on the tooth. Some teeth only have one canal, but the molars have three and sometimes four. Regardless of which tooth needs the procedure, however, most every root canal will only take one visit. Plan on up to 90 minutes.