Root canal therapy is the most common method of treating diseases of the nerve. The reason for needing a root canal is injury to the nerve, caused by such irritants as decay, deep fillings, orthodontics, periodontal disease, accidental trauma, developmental defects, etc.
The most common symptoms of a tooth needing a root canal are one or more of the following: pain brought on by heat or cold, pain to chewing or tapping pressure, swelling around a tooth, discoloration, and spontaneous toothache. Conducting tests to determine the presence of these symptoms, along with the examination of an x-ray are the only accurate means of diagnosing the necessity for root canal therapy.
If none of the above symptoms are present and the x-ray looks normal, root canal therapy may not be necessary. Occasionally a tooth that displays no symptoms may be diagnosed solely from an x-ray as needing root canal therapy, but this is unusual. Endodontic symptoms usually come and go or rise and fall in intensity, making diagnosis accurate only if and when symptoms are present.
Root canal therapy consists of the removal of the dental pulp (nerve), followed by its replacement with a specialized filling material (gutta percha). A tooth with a well-placed root canal can usually be maintained for a lifetime once your regular dentist properly restores the tooth. If a root canal is not performed, the tooth almost always will be lost due to infection and loss of supporting bone. If an abscess (infection) in the bone is already present, a root canal will usually provide relief and help the bone return to a healthy condition.
Root canals are usually accomplished in two appointments, but occasionally may be done in a single visit if favorable circumstances exist. Every effort is made to make this visit as pleasant and pain free.