Smile Design
December 21, 2021

Root canals: Single Visit Versus Multiple Visits

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    Root canals: Single Visit Versus Multiple Visits

    Some of our patients have been wondering why one root canal treatment might be completed in a single visit, while another might take several visits over several weeks to complete. In this article, we will go over the reasons why this might take place.

    Before we start, let’s quickly recap what happens during a root canal treatment.

    1. Decay reaches the nerve:

    When tooth decay is extensive, it can reach the pulp chamber, which is the area of the tooth that contains the nerve tissue. When this happens, most patients experience a lot of pain and/or discomfort. This causes permanent damage to the nerve tissue and causes it to necrose (die and break down).

    2. Dead nerve tissue is removed and canal is shaped to receive the filling:

    Your dentist will remove the dead/damaged nerve tissue, and thoroughly clean and disinfect the area. They will then shape the canals to receive the final filling.

    3. Canals are filled and sealed:

    The canals are now clean and ready to receive the final filling. The final filling is made from Gutta Percha, an inert material that fills the canal and does not react with the surrounding tissues. A sealant is added to seal the canals from their surroundings and provide antibacterial properties to prevent reinfection.

    4. Tooth structure is filled:

    The tooth structure can now be filled to restore function and esthetics.

    Now, what are the reasons the above steps can take one visit versus many visits?

    This is very case-dependent, and will vary depending on the patient’s individual circumstances.

    If the decay is caught as soon as it approaches the nerve or just before, this means that the canals are relatively clean and not heavily invaded by bacteria. This allows the root canal to be cleaned and disinfected in one session.

    If the decay is caught at a more advanced level, the canals may be infected. This might caused the root canal to be completed in multiple visits. The number of visits can be determined by many factors such as:

    1. The patient’s pain level: if the patient is in a lot of pain, we tend to disperse our visits to allow us to work with minimal patient discomfort

    2. The amount of infection present: the presence of moderate or severe infections (abscess) requires more steps in the cleaning phase of the root canal. We tend to opt for several visits to ensure that the canals are properly cleaned and disinfected prior to filling them

    3. The presence of an abscess: in severely infected teeth, an abscess might form around the roots. This requires treatment prior to filling the canals.

    4. Root canal re-treatment: in cases where a root canal has failed, a root canal re-treatment is done. This usually involves removing the existing tooth and root canal fillings and re-cleaning and reshaping the canals for filling. This procedure tends to take more time and visits.

    Further information about root canal treatments can be found here.

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