Nobody likes hearing they need a root canal…
Yet the more you know, the better prepared you’ll be if the time comes. At National Dental Care, we’ll aim to make the treatment as comfortable as possible.
Root Canal Procedure
Endodontics is the study or treatment of the ‘dental pulp’—the soft tissue within your tooth, containing nerves and blood vessels, and extending from the (inside) top of each tooth to its root. It is a significant part of the healthy development of teeth. However, it is possible for this dental pulp to become inflamed or infected, and if it is infected badly enough then endodontic treatment—commonly known as root canal therapy—may be necessary.
What causes the inflammation?
Inflammation of the dental pulp is caused when the nerve is irritated by chemical, thermal or mechanical stimuli. This may happen when a pre-existing deep filling is being removed and heat is generated in the process, very close to the nerve tissue or the tooth is fractured, directly exposing the nerve. Infection of the pulp is caused when bacteria begins to grow in the dental pulp. This can happen as a consequence of untreated gum disease or a deep cavity, where bacteria have destroyed most of the tooth structure.
What are the symptoms?
Classic symptoms and signs of a pulp infection or inflammation can include a dull or throbbing toothache, sensitivity to hot and cold which lingers for a long time after a hot or cold drink, tenderness when chewing or when touched, discolouration, even bad taste or bad smell in your mouth. If a dental pulp infection is left untreated, the toxins from the bacteria inside the tooth can destroy the bone around the tooth and cause a dental abscess. The tooth continues to be weakened by the bacteria and eventually may break down completely. In this case, the whole tooth has to be removed. Root canal therapy is a method of removing the dental pulp tissue inside the harder shell of tooth in order to save the tooth. The quicker the treatment occurs, the more likely the success of the root canal therapy, so early intervention is important.
What’s involved in the treatment?
If, after a comprehensive examination with your National Dental Care dentist you decide that root canal therapy is your preferred treatment option, you may need to make several appointments to have this treatment completed. Usually, root canal therapy takes two visits. Both of these visits are done with the tooth isolated by a mini surgical drape, a thin sheet of rubber, held around the tooth by a ring or a clamp.
In the first visit, the diseased tooth and pulp debris is cleaned thoroughly from the middle of the tooth and its roots. This is done with the help of x-ray images, which help the dentist assess the length of each of the roots before they start and during treatment. The procedure uses very fine instruments called endodontic files, which are similar to wire bottle brushes. They clean the roots of the tooth from the inside. The roots are also flushed with antibacterial solutions to remove any floating debris and bacteria. Once the dentist is satisfied that the roots are clean from debris, they dress the roots with an antibacterial dressing and place a temporary filling over the top. This protects the tooth from being re-infected. The dentist may decide to place a metal band around the tooth if they are worried that the tooth is severely weakened and at risk of fracture.
In the second visit, the tooth is re-opened and flushed with antibacterial solutions. The roots are then filled with some cold or warm rubber points, bonded to the walls of the root canal with sealant. A restoration is then placed over the top of the tooth and in most cases, a crown is recommended shortly after root canal treatment, this protects the tooth from fractures which may allow bacteria to re-enter and re-infect the tooth.
Your National Dental Care dentist may recommend a referral to a Specialist Endodontist. This may happen before or after the dentist starts the root canal treatment on your tooth. As the dentist relies on the two dimensional x-ray images to view the inside of a three dimensional root canal, general dentists are often limited when it comes to extremely curved, extremely long or blocked canals.
Root canal treatment is a micro-surgery on your tooth and it carries a number of risks. Your dentist will explain this to you before the treatment start, but you may need to be aware that a Specialist Endodontist may be called upon to complete any root canal treatment if it proves complex.
Regular reviews of the tooth and x-ray images at regular intervals will be necessary after completion of the treatment, to ensure there is no sign of ongoing infection in or around the tooth.
How long do root canals last?
Root canal treatments can last for many years provided you take good care of your teeth and have regular checkups. You will need regular reviews and x-rays to ensure there is no ongoing infection in or around the tooth.
Good oral hygiene is essential for any dental treatment to last – if you have any questions about the best technique, check with your National Dental Care practitioner. This oral hygiene video can also upskill your techniques.
If you have any symptoms such as sensitivity or pain, contact your practitioner as soon as possible. It may not mean a root canal is needed but the sooner it’s assessed, the better. You can make an appointment online now.
Any surgical or invasive procedure carries risks. Before proceeding with a surgical or invasive procedure, you should seek a second opinion from an appropriately qualified health practitioner.
What does Root Canal Treatment really mean?
Root canal treatment (also called endodontic treatment) is a procedure that specifically treats the nerve of the tooth and tissues surrounding the root of the tooth.
How can this improve my dental health?
The aim of root canal treatment is to save a tooth that has been damaged by decay, disease or injury. The dead tissue is removed from the canal, medications such as antiseptics and localised antibiotics are used to clean the inside of the tooth, and the canals are filled. Root canal treatment is successful in most cases and if you take good care of the treated tooth, it can last for many years – possibly for the rest of your life. However, your tooth will not be treated unless the treatment is likely to succeed. In some cases, root canal treatment may not be appropriate and extraction may be the best option.