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A root canal is often recommended when the nerve of the tooth becomes damaged or an abscess threatens the overall health of the tooth. A root canal treatment involves removing all or a portion of the nerve of the tooth that has been damaged or infected. During the procedure, the dentist will attempt to remove all of the infection. Once the area has been sufficiently cleaned and the canal prepared, the dentist will fill the opening with a composite material that is similar to cement. A temporary crown is applied to the top of the tooth to protect the area while it heals. After a few weeks, the dentist will remove the temporary crown and replace it with a permanent one made of porcelain or ceramic.
An abscess can return after a root canal treatment if all of the infection was not removed during the original procedure. The nerve of a tooth has tiny shoots, much like the roots of a tree, that travel throughout its interior. While it is easy for the dentist to reach the main portion of the nerve, it can be extremely difficult to clear the tiny crevices and channels the offshoots travel through. This can result in the abscess or infection returning. If the tooth becomes re-infected, a second root canal treatment may need to be performed. This is part of the reason a temporary crown is put in place. If a reinfection does occur, they only have to remove the temporary crown to regain access to the area.
A root canal is not generally a lengthy procedure. From the time a patient is taken to the back to the time they are ready to leave the dentist's chair can range anywhere from 45 minutes to 2 hours. The cause of the difference in time span may have to do with how difficult it is for the dentist to find and remove all of the existing infection. Most dentists will spend a few extra minutes if it will help them to eliminate all of the infection and prevent a second root canal treatment. If the infection is easy to locate and contained neatly in one specific area of the tooth, the dentist may be able to finish the procedure in as little as 30 minutes, but this is not always the case.
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