Most patients are passingly familiar with the concept of a root canal, but there is another lesser-known aspect to this treatment in the form of root canal medicaments. A root canal medicament is an important part of restoring your oral health and protecting against further infection.

What are root canal medicaments?

Root canal medicaments are used as part of a root canal to bring an extra level of bacteria-killing power to the procedure. A root canal is necessary when the soft dental pulp inside the tooth becomes infected and inflamed.

Signs of this include:

  • Severe tooth pain: Sharp and stabbing pain when you chew or bite down
  • Sensitivity: Sensitivity to hot and cold that continues even after the hot and cold stimulus is removed can mean infection beyond simple tooth decay
  • Changes to gums: The appearance of a small bump on the gums near the base of the tooth can be an abscess
  • Swelling and tenderness: Gum swelling and tenderness that persists is a sign of infection, especially when accompanied by other symptoms
  • Darkened tooth

The most common conditions that require root canal are periodontal disease or tooth abscess. Other conditions that may prompt a root canal include:

A root canal medicament is medication placed inside the tooth after the root canal and before restorative dentistry procedures.

What does root canal medication inside the tooth do?

Root canal medication inside of your tooth performs several different functions. Importantly, it prevents the spread of bacterial infection caused by any stray bacteria that may have been missed in the removal of the infected soft dental pulp. It also prevents new bacteria from entering the tooth and gums as they recover from the root canal.

The body has an excellent mechanism in the immune system that helps to fight infection. For some patients, though, root canal medicaments offer another level of protection. People with compromised immune systems or underlying health conditions (e.g., diabetes) can benefit from this boost.

Types of root canal medicaments

There are many different types of root canal medicaments to choose from. The most common are effective and less likely to cause an allergic reaction in a wider variety of patients. Here are four that your dentist may recommend during a root canal.

  1. Triple antibiotic paste (metronidazole, ciprofloxacin, and minocycline): Just as with cuts, triple antibiotic paste (TAP) has been remarkably effective and safe for use as an intracanal medicament in preventing the spread of infection and speeding healing.
  2. Calcium hydroxide: Mixed with water into a slurry, calcium hydroxide is an antimicrobial that works well as an intracanal medicament.
  3. Formocresol: This controversial root canal medicament has been used with some success in patients of all ages but often in pediatric dentistry for its long-term success at controlling bacteria and biocompatibility. Formocresol is best used in a single application.
  4. Camphorated monochlorophenol: Camphorated monochlorophenol-soaked cotton pellets inserted into the cleaned and irrigated space are not as long-lasting as other root canal medicaments.

Your dentist may also choose to use an irrigant other than water instead of a root canal medicament as well. There are other options, so talk to your dentist to find which one is best for you.