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What is a root canal?

A root canal is the most commonly performed endodontic procedure, and involves treating problems within the soft core of the tooth, also known as the dental pulp. The dental pulp is the soft tissue found inside the tooth from the top all the way down to the end of the root, and contains nerves, blood vessels and connective tissue that provide nutrients to the tooth as it grows. As teeth grow, the pulp provides nourishment and helps the tooth develop properly. But once the tooth is fully functioning, the nerve within it is not vital to the tooth’s ability to function, and instead just serves sensory functions such as detecting the sensation of hot or cold. Therefore, the nerve and surrounding tissue can be removed from the tooth to repair and save the tooth from an infected pulp. The mature tooth will be able to survive without the pulp.

How does the pulp become damaged?

The pulp is most commonly damaged by an untreated cavity that allows bacteria to eat through the enamel of the tooth and eventually infect the pulp within it. The pulp can also be damaged by trauma to the tooth that cuts off the blood supply to the tooth and causes the pulp tissue to die. Although the pulp is no longer needed to supply fully developed teeth with nutrients, it will gradually decay if left damaged within the tooth. If left untreated, pus may build up within the root tip and form an abscess that can damage the bone around the teeth, causing pain and the potential for permanent damage.

What are the symptoms of damaged pulp?

  • Severe toothache and discoloration
  • Prolonged sensitivity to hot or cold temperatures
  • Swelling and tenderness
  • Recurring pimple on the gums

Is root-canal painful?

Although many patients associate the root canal procedure with major pain and discomfort, it is usually not painful. Local anesthesia is used to numb the affected area, although it is sometimes not even needed since the nerve tissue is dead. However, anesthesia often helps patients relax and relieves any anxieties they may have.

How successful are root canals?

Root canal is considered a highly successful treatment, with most patients experiencing complete relief from their symptoms. A crown or filling can usually help repair the appearance of the treated tooth so that other people won’t even realize that a root canal was performed. The results of a root canal procedure can be permanent, as long as the patient practices healthy teeth and gum habits and sees the dentist on a regular basis.

Are there any risks for doing a root-canal?

Although most root canal procedures are performed successfully with no complications, there is always a risk that the treated tooth will become infected again in the future, especially if multiple root canals have been performed on the same tooth. There is also a small risk of damaging the tooth during the procedure, although this rarely occurs. You can reduce any risks associated and help make the procedure as effective and painless as possible by choosing a reliable and experienced endodontist.

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450 Sutter St #2500, San Francisco, CA 94108, USA


(415) 989-3953


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