The space inside the tooth from the center, known as the pulp chamber, that travels down the length of the root to the tip (or apex) is called a "canal," or more specifically, a root canal. Human teeth may have one to four root canals depending on the anatomy of the tooth. Molars, may have 2 to 4 canals, premolars may have 1 to 2 canals cuspids may have 1 to 2 canals, and finally incisors generally have 1 canal.
Extra canals may branch out from the main canal, called "accessory canals." The number of canals and the anatomy can vary among teeth.
The tiny canals contain the pulp of the tooth also commonly referred to as the nerve, which originates from the pulp chamber. Any trauma or infection of the nerve will result in the need for root canal therapy.
Common reasons for root canal therapy include:
Root canal therapy can be performed in single or multiple visits. Before the procedure, though, our dentists will advise you as to the number of appointments necessary to complete the root canal. If you had an infection or abscess in the tooth, our dentists may choose to have you start antibiotics before completing the root canal.
Our dentists will begin the appointment by giving you a local anesthetic to "numb" the tooth that is being worked on.
After your tooth is "numb", you may expect the following procedures:
A dental x-ray of the tooth, displaying the entire tooth in the film (called a "periapical x-ray"), is taken for our dentists to refer to during the procedure.
Our dentists will place a rubber dam over your mouth. This plastic shield, made from either latex or non-latex materials, is used to keep the tooth isolated from your saliva and very dry before the final steps are taken to complete the procedure. Our dentists will use an antibacterial solution to disinfect the inside of the tooth. The rubber dam is helpful in keeping these solutions from entering your mouth.
Next, our dentists will begin the procedure by drilling a small hole through the tooth in to the area known as the pulp chamber -- this is where the nerve of the tooth is located.
Our dentists will begin using tiny files, which are designed to remove the nerve from the tooth and any infected tissue. Certain files can be used by hand; others are connected to a slower moving dental hand piece, called a "rotary instrument." Our dentists may require another x-ray at this point to determine the length of the root. There is also impedance signal technology that allows us to get the absolute best result possible. Our dentists need to get as close to the tip, or apex of the tooth, to remove all of the nerve. This is usually the longest part of the procedure.
When the local anesthetic has worn off, your tooth may be sore from the procedure. Our dentists may recommend a pain reliever to take at home, and depending on the circumstances behind your root canal, antibiotics may be prescribed to clear up any remaining infection in the tooth. If you were on antibiotics before the procedure, our dentists will instruct you to finish the remaining medication.