What is a root canal?
Root canal therapy is a treatment used to repair and save a tooth that is badly decayed or infected. It is a procedure which effectively eases the pain associated with a bacterial infection deep within the pulp of the tooth. Root canal treatment doesn’t just relieve pain — it also stops the infection. During root canal therapy, the pulp is removed, and the inside of the tooth is cleaned and sealed, saving the tooth which is in danger of being lost if left untreated, and in fact, restores the tooth to its full function.
Most people are fearful of the procedure, assuming the procedure is painful. In fact, the procedure in no more painful than having a filling placed.
Root canal therapy is the treatment of choice to save a tooth that may have to be extracted and replaced by dental implant or dental bridge. Root canal therapy is highly successful and usually lasts a lifetime though occasionally, the tooth may have to be retreated due to infection.
A Tooth Extraction is NOT a Good Alternative to a Root Canal
When you have a tooth having nerve damage due to an infection or decay, the best solution is a root canal treatment. By this treatment, you can keep your natural tooth. Advantages of keeping your natural teeth include:
- Effective chewing
- Normal biting in both force and sensation
- Maintaining a natural appearance
- Protection for your other teeth against wear and strain
- Replacement of missing tooth can be more expensive than saving the tooth
Why is root canal treatment needed?
Root Canal Treatment is recommended when the soft tissue located inside the root canal gets infected. The infection is caused by tooth decay or damage to teeth because of accident. Sometimes damage caused to a tooth during an accident cannot be seen so it is best to see a dentist to so that he or she can determine whether the pulp is damaged or not.
The pain and infection could get worse if left untreated as bacteria from the infected tooth pulp can travel through the roots of the tooth and into the tissue of the gums and jaw. That can cause a painful, pus-filled abscess to form, which will require urgent treatment. In extreme cases, it can also result in increasing systemic (whole-body) inflammation, potentially putting you at risk for more serious conditions.
Root Canal Treatment can save the tooth. If you neglect treatment of a root canal problem long enough, you are at serious risk for losing the infected tooth. And tooth loss, once it starts, can bring on a host of other problems — like an increased risk of tooth decay on remaining teeth, as well as gum disease, bite problems… and, as oral health problems escalate, even more tooth loss. Why put yourself at risk?
What Are the Signs That Root Canal Therapy Is Needed?
Signs you may need root canal therapy include:
- Severe toothache pain upon chewing or application of pressure
- Prolonged sensitivity (pain) to hot or cold temperatures (after the heat or cold has been removed)
- Discoloration (darkening) of the tooth
- Swelling and tenderness in nearby gums
- A persistent or recurring pimple on the gums
- Sometimes no symptoms are present
The Root Canal Procedure
Root canal therapy requires one or more office visits.
- An X-ray is taken to see the shape of the root canals and determine if there are any signs of infection in the surrounding bone.
- Your dentist will then use local anesthesia to numb the area near the tooth.
- Rubber dam – to keep the area dry and free of saliva during treatment, your dentist will place a rubber dam (a sheet of rubber) around the tooth.
- Sealing the tooth. Once the canals are cleaned, they will either be sealed or if further treatment is required, the dentist may place a temporary filling
Filling inside of tooth and sealing exterior opening. When the canals are ready to be sealed, either in the same appointment or possibly one week later, the canals are filled with a sealer paste and a rubber compound called gutta-percha. To fill the access hole created at the beginning of treatment, a composite or tooth coloured filling is placed.
- Crown placement. The final step may involve further restoration of the tooth. Because a tooth that needs root canal therapy is one that often has a large filling or extensive decay or other weakness, a crown, or other restoration often needs to be placed on the tooth to protect it, prevent it from breaking, and restore it to full function. Your dentist will discuss the need for any additional dental work with you.
Cleaning out the tooth. An access hole will then be drilled into the tooth. The pulp, along with bacteria and related debris, is removed from the canals using a series of files of increasing diameter, one at a time. Once the tooth is cleaned, the dentist may place some medication inside the tooth to clear up any infection
Tips to Follow After Root Canal Treatment:
- It is necessary to take any prescribed antibiotics as directed to prevent any further or additional infection.
- If you have a prolonged period of pain, contact your dentist immediately.
- Follow proper hygiene habits and clean the tooth and gums regularly where your root canal occurred.
- Do not put too much pressure on the side of your mouth where you had your root canal.
- Be Cautious When Eating. After a root canal, watch out for the three W’s: when to eat, where to chew and what to eat.
- Do not eat anything until the numbness from the anesthesia wears off. If you try eating too soon, you may cause added injury by biting your tongue or cheek.
- Do not chew or bite on the treated tooth until it has been fully restored. Some endodontists will use a temporary filling first and place a permanent crown a few days later.
- Do eat soft food for the first couple of days. Be careful when eating food that is crunchy. If you were to accidently bite down with a tooth that still has the temporary filling it could cause the filling to chip or break.