Q I had a toothache and my dentist told me I need a root canal. He put me on antibiotics and it stopped hurting. Do I still need the root canal?
A Yes. Even though your tooth feels better since your dentist prescribed antibiotics, the underlying disease process did not change. Patients sometimes believe that antibiotics will "cure" a dental infection in the same way they can cure a medical infection such as strep throat. However, this is not the case. Once the inside (pulp) of a tooth becomes diseased, a root canal (or extraction) is necessary even if you are not experiencing pain or swelling.
Q Why do I have to have that rubber thing on my mouth when I have a root canal?
A That 'rubber thing' is called a Rubber dam, and it is an absolute requirement for root canal treatment. The dental dam is important for many reasons. First, the dam protects the patient from swallowing or aspirating instruments or materials. It also keeps the operating field aseptic and improves visualization for the dentist. During root canal treatment, one of the main objectives is to eliminate bacteria in or around the root canal system. Having rubber dam isolation greatly improves disinfection because it prevents bacteria from the oral cavity from entering the tooth during treatment.
Q I was told by my dentist that I needed a root canal. What is root canal treatment?
A Root canal treatment is a very successful procedure and permits the patient to keep a tooth that otherwise would require extraction. Treatment is necessary when the pulp tissue inside the tooth (nerve) becomes diseased and is irreversibly damaged. Frequent causes for injury include bacteria from dental caries (decay), trauma, and coronal cracks. During treatment the dentist makes an opening in the top of the tooth and cleans the diseased or necrotic (dead) nerve tissue and bacteria from inside the root. The resulting space is sealed with an inert filling material to prevent future leakage of bacteria from saliva. Following the root canal treatment, a new filling or crown is required.