Root Canal Therapy
An opening is made in the crown of the tooth. This allows access to the root canal system. It is very important to have a large enough opening to find all the canals inside a tooth. Anatomy inside the tooth is variable. Some teeth have just one canal like most upper front teeth. Premolars usually have 1 or 2. Molars or the back teeth typically have 3 or 4.
The pulp is removed from the pulp chamber and root canals. Tiny instruments are used to clean the root canals and to shape them to a form that will be easy to fill. Irrigants are used to dissolve and flush out debris. If this step is not completed in one visit, medication will be placed in the canals and a temporary filling will be placed in the opening to protect the tooth between visits. Radiographs (X-rays) are taken periodically during the cleaning process to check if the instruments are cleaning near the end of the root.
When thoroughly cleaned, the root canals are filled with a rubber-like compound called "gutta percha." A cement is also used to help seal the canals to prevent bacteria from re-entering. In many cases, the opening in the crown of the tooth is sealed with a temporary filling. After endodontic treatment, x-rays are taken to verify that cleaning and filling of the canals is close to the end of the root.
What a root canal attempts to do is remove the diseased tissues (indicated by the yellow arrow), which contains the nerve and blood supply of a tooth, with a rubber type material. The area that is filled is called the "root canal." The root canal of each tooth is very different. The reason this tooth needed a root canal was due to decay (indicated by the white arrow) entering the pulp.
This is what the completed root canal looks like on an x-ray. This tooth had three canals, which you can see by the white filling material in the root portion of the tooth.