Root Canal Treatment

Root canal treatment is a procedure to maintain a tooth when the dental pulp has been damaged.

The pulp is the soft tissue within the tooth that contains nerves, blood vessels, and connective tissue. It extends from the crown of the tooth (chamber) to the tip of the root (root canals).

The most common causes of damage to the pulp are tooth decay and tooth fracture (crack). Both of these problems can provide a pathway for germs (bacteria) to enter the pulp. When the pulp becomes infected, it can eventually die, leading to an abscess in the bone surrounding the root.

When the infected pulp is not removed, pain and swelling can result. Without root canal treatment, the tooth will have to be removed.

Steps in Root canal Therapy

The tooth will be examined, tested, and radiographs performed to determine if root canal treatment is necessary. During treatment, the dentist removes the diseased pulp, cleans the canals of the tooth, fills them, and seals the tooth. A local anesthetic will be given if necessary.

Root canal treatment often involves multiple visits. Between visits, the tooth will be sealed with a temporary filling. The following outlines the steps taken to maintain the tooth through root canal treatment:

  • First, an opening is made through the crown of the tooth to the pulp chamber.
  • The pulp is removed.
  • The root canal(s) is cleaned and shaped to accommodate the filling.
  • During the treatment, medications may be placed in the root canals to help get rid of bacteria.
  • The root canals are filled and the opening sealed with a temporary filling.
  • The temporary filling is replaced with a permanent filling as soon as possible and is usually followed by a gold or porcelain crown.


After Root Canal Treatment

There may be discomfort following root canal treatment. Over-the-counter medications such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or aspirin usually relieve discomfort. Your provider will prescribe or recommend medication for pain and/or infection if appropriate.

  • If the pain lasts more than a few days, or if severe pain or swelling occurs, you should call your dental provider.
  • For emergencies after clinic hours, call the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics at 319-356-1616. Ask for the endodontic resident on call. If seen, there will be a charge for emergency room services in addition to charges for dental treatment provided.

A permanent restoration (silver filling, composite filling, or crown) is critical to the success of root canal treatment because it helps to prevent bacterial contamination and tooth fracture. The fee for a permanent restoration is not part of the fee for the root canal treatment.

Recall appointments. The root canal treatment, permanent filling, and/or crown are evaluated for healing at recall appointments every 6-12 months at no charge.

Good oral hygiene. Your restored tooth has a better prognosis if you commit to good oral hygiene and regular dental checkups and cleanings.