Also called endodontic (Greek for inside the tooth) treatment, this is the treatment of choice to repair a tooth that is badly decayed or becomes infected, and it has a 95% success rate. The only alternative is to extract the tooth. Saving a natural tooth is almost always the best option. Contrary to popular belief, endodontic treatment is typically pain free because local anesthesia is used, and also, because when the pulp is necrotic/dead, it cannot generate nerve impulses to trigger pain. A root canal is usually done to relieve the pain, but any discomfort is about the same as what you would experience for a filling. The process includes:
- Access: An access hole is drilled through the crown to remove pulp and decayed tissue in the tooth’s core.
- Debridement: Canals inside the roots are cleaned with files of increasing diameter and debris flushed out, disinfected (and medicated if needed), and then its walls filed and flared to eliminate bacteria.
- Obturation: The new empty space is filled with a plastic, rubber-like material called gutta percha and a sealer, after which a filling or a crown is placed on top. If more structure is needed, a post may be placed inside the tooth.