When damaged teeth are left untreated for a long period of time it can lead to a deterioration on the nerve within the tooth, causing discomfort. Tooth decay can also lead to even greater health issues. National Dental Care / DB Dental provides root canal therapy, which is an endodontic treatment used to treat patients who are suffering from damaged nerves.
Adult teeth are structured in the same way - starting with the jawbone, which provides the structural support for all your teeth. The root runs from the jawbone, up and around the dentine that forms the tooth, and back down the other side into the bone. The root inside the dentine is known as the pulp. The pulp contains nerves and blood vessels, then the layer of dentine, and finally, the outer enamel finishes the tooth. Your gums are soft tissue that protect the bone and root. A root canal treatment is necessary when tooth decay has reached the point that the pulp is diseased or dying. The pulp is the source of blood flow in your teeth, so when it is compromised, you are at a greater risk for oral sepsis and other diseases. If the pulp becomes infected and dies, you might refer to this as a 'dead tooth'. When the pulp becomes damaged there is no barrier to micro-organisms and other toxins to infect the pulp, thus potentially entering your bloodstream.
Symptoms of tooth decay
Your body is designed to fight infection, so the first sign of tooth decay or damaged pulp is usually toothache. You may notice your gums surrounding the sore tooth are inflamed and swollen.
These are some other symptoms of a damaged pulp:
- Dull, throbbing toothache
- Lingering sensitivity to heat and cold
- Pain or tenderness when chewing
- Tooth discolouration
- Bad taste in your mouth and/or bad breath
If you neglect a dental pulp infection, the result will likely be a dental abscess. This happens when the toxins from oral bacteria destroy the bone around the tooth. Left untreated, the tooth will eventually break down and die, whilst becoming more and more discoloured in the process.
Root Canal Therapy (RCT)
The treatment for diseased dental pulp is a root canal. In most cases, our dentists' can perform this microsurgery in the practice. There are some cases where you may need to have an endodontist, a dentist who specialises in root canal, to complete the procedure. An example would be if your teeth have uncommonly long or curved roots, and the general 2D x-ray doesn't provide a clear picture. Endodontists have more high-tech equipment, like a microscope or a 3D x-ray, that would provide a clearer picture of the pulp and roots. RCT usually takes between one to three appointments.
After the treatment
There's no preparation for a root canal, but there are some suggestions for aftercare. If you experience any pain beyond what seems normal for this treatment, call your dentist.
- Over the counter analgesics like paracetamol or ibuprofen should manage any discomfort you feel after the treatment
- Avoid hard or chewy foods for the first few days
- Get in the habit of good oral hygiene habits (brush and floss twice a day)
- Schedule a follow-up appointment for a crown, if necessary
After your root canal treatment, you'll need regular visits to the dentist and x-rays to confirm good root health and that there are no lingering infections around the tooth. A root canal will last for many years when you practice good oral hygiene and make regular trips to the dentist.