Root Canal Therapy, Step-By-Step; Portland, OR General & Restorative Dentist Explains the Procedure
Updated: Mar 2
Have you been told that you need a root canal? Not to worry! Although root canal therapy has an old (and very outdated) reputation for being painful, modern dentistry means that most patients find getting a root canal no more painful than getting a filling!
Root canal therapy today involves state-of-the-art technology ─ including digital radiographic imaging, ultrasonic instruments and operating microscopes ─ which helps us accurately and precisely diagnose, locate, visualize, and operate on the small spaces of a tooth’s root canals. Root canal treatment relieves pain, not causes it ─ and saves millions of teeth every year! Ahead, we will walk through the steps of a typical root canal treatment.
Step 1: Examining the Tooth
As with any dental procedure, a thorough oral exam and x-ray are first needed to see what we’re dealing with and precisely how we will work on the affected area. An x-ray allows us to see the shape of the root canals and determine if there are any signs of infection in the surrounding area.
Step 2: Preparing the Area
A local anesthetic is applied to numb the tooth and ensure our patients are relaxed and comfortable throughout the procedure. A dental dam ─ a thin, protective rubber sheet ─ is then placed around the tooth in need of treatment, isolating it and keeping it free from saliva and other substances while the tooth is being worked on.
Step 3: Accessing and Cleaning the Roots
Using specialized instruments, our dentist makes a small opening in the crown of the tooth, giving access to the root canal and pulp chamber for treatment. The diseased and dead pulp is carefully removed, and the canals are cleaned and disinfected with antiseptic and antibacterial solutions.
Step 4: Shaping and Filling the Canals and Tooth
After the canals are thoroughly cleaned, the dentist shapes them for filling. Using tiny instruments, the dentist shapes then fills the canals with a biocompatible filler material (usually a rubber-like material called gutta-percha), cleans the area again, and seals the canals. A temporary or permanent filling material is then placed to cover the access hole, and the dental dam is removed. If the tooth lacks structure to support the filling, the dentist may place a post in one of the canals to help retain it.
Step 5: Placing a Crown (not always needed)
A crown may be needed if the affected tooth is a molar or the tooth has significant damage. The crown is custom-made to match the patient’s existing teeth and placed over the treated tooth, adding strength and stability. The crown fully restores the tooth’s appearance and function, and the tooth can now handle the forces of chewing again.
Step 6: Post-Op and Healing
After receiving a root canal, you may be prescribed an antibiotic to prevent infection. As with all dental treatments, please be sure to follow your post-treatment care instructions very carefully! Post-treatment effects are minimal, and are usually limited to minor discomfort or slight soreness for a few days up to one week. A follow-up appointment may be scheduled, and of course do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions or concerns.
Root canal treatments usually only take between 30-60 minutes from start to finish, and up to 90 minutes for complex cases. They are safe, largely painless, and highly effective, with an over 95% success rate of saving a tooth. Over 15 million teeth are saved by root canal therapy every year in the U.S., and in most cases they last a lifetime!
Here at Rose City Dental Care, we can help you keep your natural teeth and smile with fear-free, pain-free root canal therapy. Call us at 503-255-2415 to schedule your RCT consultation today!
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