A "root canal" is an endodontic procedure wherein infected dental pulp is removed from the tooth's root "canals," the canal is filled with special material, and a “final restoration” (a crown or a bridge) is placed on the top of the tooth.
Root canal treatment included under this dental code takes place on a bicuspid tooth, requiring two visits to complete. It does not cover the final restoration that occurs on the second visit. Different codes are used for the final portion of the root canal treatment.
The bicuspid (there are four in either jaw) are the two teeth directly behind your incisors, and are also referred to as "pre-molars." Sometimes you may only have two bicuspids in each jaw if your orthodontist had them removed to make room for your orthodontic treatment and braces.
Root canal treatment is a multi-step event which first begins with an analysis of the tooth's decay via 3D-imaging or X-ray. This step is essential not only to determine the extent of the decay, but also to determine how many canals exist in the tooth, (some have more than expected), as well as their shape, which varies depending on the patient.
Anesthesia may or may not be necessary, also dependent on the patient and the remaining volume of healthy nerve (pulp) within the root canal. Today, new medicines allow for greater control over numbing localization as well as the length of time needed for anesthetic, and can result less pain than traditionally associated with root canal.
After the preliminary assessment has been conducted, a hole will be drilled into the tooth to access the pulp, and the decayed area will be removed using an appliance called a dental file. Some dentists employ lasers for both the access and the removal of dead nerve, but this technique has not been adapted by all dentists. Microscopic cameras may also be used to see within the tooth where the dentist cannot. Depending on the level of decay, this portion of the procedure may take a considerable amount of time, and additional digital, or traditional X-rays may be employed to ensure all of the decay is removed properly.
Following the excavation of the dead nerve, your dentist may decide to apply a sedative filling, which helps to sooth tooth pain and provide localized anti-bacterial treatment to the canal. This is commonly the last step in your first visit for this procedure until the final restoration is completed at your second visit.