Root canal treatment is a dental procedure used to treat infection at the centre of the tooth (root canal system). Root canal treatment is often required to treat infections caused by live bacteria in your mouth that invades your teeth. Certain oral infections can cause tooth decay, leaky fillings and damage to teeth.
The treatment itself is when your dentist will remove the infected tissue from inside your tooth as well as cleaning and filling the inside of your tooth to help prevent further damage or infections. Root canal treatment can save your tooth from being extracted.
Your tooth is made of two parts, the crown is at the top of the tooth which is visible in your mouth, the root extends into the bone of the jaw, positioning the tooth in place.
Teeth also consist of enamel – the hard outer coating. Dentine, which is the softer material that supports the enamel and forms most of your tooth and cementum which is the hard material that coats the root’s surface.
Why is Root Canal treatment needed?
Root canal treatment is only required when you have had dental X-rays and they show that pulp has been damaged by a bacterial infection, tooth decay, cracked or loose teeth, gum disease or repeated treatment on a tooth. The pulp will begin to die if it’s infected by bacteria, allowing the bacteria to then multiply and spread. Dental pulp is the soft tissue at the centre of the tooth.
The symptoms of a pulp infection include;
- Pain when eating or drinking hot or cold food and drink
- Discomfort and pain when biting or chewing
- Loose teeth
When the infection progresses, symptoms can often disappear as the pulp dies. The infection will appear to have healed, but in fact is being spread throughout your root canal system.
Other symptoms may include;
- Swelling of the gum near the affected tooth/teeth
- Pus appearing from the affected tooth/teeth
- Facial swelling
- Your tooth or teeth becoming a darker shade (this shows that the nerve inside is dead or dying).
If you have experienced any of the symptoms listed above – it is imperative you visit your dentist at your convenience as the pulp that is potentially damaged cannot repair itself. Leaving a tooth infected may make matters worse such as causing further oral infections as well as making your existing infection severely worse.
What is the procedure?
Root canal treatment is usually carried out under local anaesthetic, which is a painkilling medication that numbs the specific area; although if the tooth has died and is no longer sensitive, you may not need anaesthetic.
During the procedure, a rubber sheet (sometimes called a ‘dam’) is placed around the tooth to ensure your mouth is dry during treatment. The rubber sheet also prevents you swallowing or breathing in any chemicals the dentist may use. After this, your dentist will open your tooth through the crown and remove any existing infected pulp – if you have an abscess your dentist will also release and drain the pus to help prevent further infections.
Your dentist will then clean and enlarge the root canal so it can be filled easily, usually the root canal is narrow which can often be difficult to fill.
It’s important to remember that this part of the treatment may take longer than you expect, a number of dentist visit may be necessary. If the treatment needs to be carried out over more time, your dentist may put a small amount of medication in the cleaned canal to kill any remaining bacteria, the tooth will then be sealed using a temporary filling.
After time, your next visit to the dentist would consist of filling and sealing your tooth. Root-filled teeth are more likely to break than healthy unrestored teeth, so your dentist may suggest placing a crown on the tooth to protect it. A crown is a cap that completely covers a real tooth. It might be necessary to use a crown after root canal treatment to prevent the tooth fracturing.
Crowns can be made from either metal and/or porcelain, a ceramic material or powdered glass. If you did choose to have a Crown after your root canal treatment, then your dentist would have to make a mould of your tooth to ensure the crown is the right shape and size and fits your tooth perfectly. When fitting the crown, cement will be used to glue the crown to the trimmed-down tooth. If there’s only a small amount of tooth left after the root canal treatment, a post can be cemented in the root canal and used to help keep the crown in place.
Root canal treatment is usually successful at saving the tooth and clearing the infection. One review of a number of studies found 90% of root-treated teeth survived for 8-10 years. The study also found having a crown fitted to the tooth after root canal treatment was the most important factor for improving tooth survival rates.
Recovering from Root Canal treatment
It is vital to look after your teeth once your treatment is completed, it is best to avoid biting hard food until all treatment is completed.
Once your final treatment is finished, your restored tooth shouldn’t be painful although it may feel sensitive. To relieve any discomfort it is recommended to use over-the-counter painkillers such as;
It is imperative to remember to take painkillers carefully and not to exceed any dosage limits, one tablet every 3-4 hours with food would be suffice.
To prevent further infections and root canal treatment, good oral health is key. To retain good oral hygiene it is known to cut down your consumption of sugary foods and drinks, and giving up smoking if you are a smoker.
If you’re reading this thinking that Root Canal treatment isn’t for you, the alternative to having Root Canal treatment would be to have the infected tooth or teeth extracted (taken out).
If you believe you need Root Canal treatment let us talk you through some options – speak to Mark Tangri Dental today on 0333 1234 999.
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