Root Canal Treatment
Why do I need Root Canal treatment?
The crown of your tooth is made of several layers. The hard, enamel layer which you can see in your mouth, a thicker dentine layer underneath and a central ‘pulp’ centre which contains the nerve cells, blood vessels and connective tissue.
If the central pulp becomes inflamed or infected then a root canal treatment is required. It is normally the only option other than complete removal of the tooth.
Infection of the pulp usually arises as a result of advanced decay or damage to the tooth- often following an accident. Once exposed to bacteria the pulp starts to die but bacteria still continues down into the gum.
Signs of pulp damage:
- Pain in the tooth or gum
- Increased sensitivity to hot or cold
- Discoloration of the tooth
- Swelling and tenderness in the gums
- Occasionally a bad taste in the mouth
If you notice any of the above symptoms it is important to visit your Dentist. Left untreated, a pulp infection can become very painful and result in a dental abscess or in rare cases bone loss.
What is involved in a root canal treatment?
During a root canal treatment the infection pulp tissue will be removed from inside the tooth by drilling a hole in the top of the crown and using a specially designed tool to extract it.
The pulp is replaced with an inert material which fills the tooth preventing it from re-infection. A crown or filling is then placed on the top to restore the tooth allowing you to use it comfortably.
The Advantages Of Root Canal Treatment
Root canal treatment gives the option of saving a tooth that would otherwise require extraction.
The avoidance of tooth removal has a number of benefits for the patient- on both a personal and practical level.
- When you eat, those areas with gaps no longer stimulate your gum- causing the jaw bone to slowly shrink. This in turn can cause your facial features to look sullen and older.
- Preservation of your teeth helps with your ability to eat and drink the foods you want to.
- Gaps can cause difficulties with speech and confidence.
- Gaps can cause neighbouring teeth to twist or move. Gum disease can also develop as a result of food and bacteria collecting in gaps.
Don’t I need the dental pulp?
When teeth are still developing in our younger years the pulp is required to nourish the tooth and help it grow. Once adult teeth have come through and are fully developed the only job of the pulp is to alert us to tooth damage or infection. Therefore, it is possible to remove the pulp without causing any long-term issues.
Provided that you brush your teeth twice a day and attend regular dental check-ups then there is no reason your root canal treated tooth won’t last for many years and function just as well as your other teeth.
Will root canal treatment hurt?
A root canal treatment can be a scary prospect for many who imagine it to be a particularly painful procedure. Today, with modern technology and effective anaesthetics you should find your root canal procedure no more painful than a normal filling. You may notice some discomfort and swelling immediately after treatment which can be treated with over the counter painkillers.
If the pain continues or gets worse, or if you notice any swelling, contact your dentist.
The pain caused by an infected tooth or dental abscess is likely to be much worse than treatment required to solve the problem.
The worst part of the treatment is probably the length of time it will take to complete. The number of roots and root canals varies depending on the tooth to be treated and its location in your mouth. The incisors and canines (front teeth) normally only have one root and one nerve canal. Molars and pre-molars (upper and lower back teeth) can vary with between two and four root canals.
On larger teeth, removal of the pulp and shaping and disinfecting of the canals can take up to two hours to complete properly. Your Dentist will make you feel comfortable by talking to you throughout the process and stopping regularly so that you can have a quick rest. You are welcome to listen to some music if that helps you to relax.
How Is Root Canal Treatment Carried Out?
The length of treatment will depend on your individual case. You will normally require between 2 and 4 appointments. If so, they will be spaced around one week apart. . If you do require multiple visits then medicaments may be placed within the canals and the tooth covered with a temporary filling between appointments to protect it.
- At your first appointment, the infected pulp will be removed under a local anaesthetic. A hole will be drilled in the crown of the tooth and a small specially designed hand or rotary file will be used to remove the pulp. Next, the root canals will be shaped to make sure there is enough room to fill them (they can often be too narrow) When ready, they will be cleaned and flushed with an anti-bacterial solution.
- At your next appointment, the root canals will be filled with an inert material called gutta-percha to seal the canals and prevent bacteria from getting back in.
- The final stage of treatment will involve the fitting of a filling or crown to permanently restore function to the tooth. Remember to avoid chewing on the tooth during treatment and to be very gentle with it in the days after your final appointment.
Before and during treatment X-rays will be taken to monitor progress.
Care of the Root-Treated Tooth
Provided you follow a good oral hygiene routine, including brushing and flossing regularly, and attend regular checkups with your Dentists and Hygienist your root canal treated tooth should last as long as your natural teeth following permanent restoration.