When people think canals, Venice often comes to mind. But when your dentist mentions a canal, chances are he’s talking root canal and you’re wanting to be anywhere but in the chair.
While a trip to get a root canal is never going to be the destination of your dreams, root canals can be really important for keeping teeth. Back in 2005, one dentist felt the root canal was so unappreciated, it deserved its own day. And so Root Canal Appreciation Day was born to publicise their importance.
What is a root canal?
Root canal therapy is a specialist dental treatment removes infected dental pulp to save the tooth, which is filled and capped.
Your teeth have soft tissue containing nerves and blood vessels inside each tooth, from the top down to the root. If this tissue, or pulp, becomes inflamed due to infection or irritation and is left untreated you can lose the tooth and damage the bone around the tooth.
In the first visit, the tooth is thoroughly cleaned from the middle of the tooth to its roots, using special, tiny dental brushes. X-rays help the process, but if the root is twisted or especially difficult, an endodontist may be needed for the treatment. A temporary cap is placed over the tooth.
During the second visit, the tooth is again flushed with antibacterial fluid, filled with rubber picks and sealed permanently, usually with a crown. X-rays will be taken at future checkups to ensure that the root canal is completely free of infection and avoid reoccurrence.
When is a root canal needed?
If you have dental pain which is dull or throbbing, long-lasting sensitivity to hot or cold drinks, sensitivity when chewing or when the area is touch and even a bad taste or a bad smell in your mouth, you should see your National Dental Care practitioner as soon as possible. You may not need a root canal, but leaving things might mean you’ll need one down the track.
Untreated infections can result in an abscess, tooth loss and damage to the jaw bone. It’s much better to treat problems early, and much more affordable.
How to prevent a root canal
Good oral hygiene is vital for healthy teeth – that’s twice a day, minimum – your dentist will be happy to check your cleaning techniques.
Avoid smoking and keep to a healthy diet – limit sugary treats to special occasions and rinse your mouth if you can’t clean your teeth straight afterwards.
Keep up regular dental checks with your National Dental Care practitioner to spot any issues early and treat them.