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Root canal treatment

When discussing all aspects of dentistry, if there are three words that tend to send shivers down many people’s spines, they are root canal treatment. Root canal treatment, or endodontics to give it its proper name, is feared by many people as it tends to be associated with pain and expense; yet this treatment, no matter how you may feel about it, is an emergency dentistry procedure that could actually help save your tooth and surrounding teeth, so it should not be completely despised and avoided. Root canal treatment, if effective, can remove the pulp of the tooth whilst still preserving the tooth itself.

What exactly is root canal treatment and how do I know if I need it?

Root canal treatment is a common procedure that many people have to undergo in order to remove an infection that is in the pulp of a tooth. In simple terms, the treatment consists of the removal of the inner pulp via the root canal. A root canal will become necessary when the pulp tissue becomes infected and inflamed – a dentist will remove the infected and damaged pulp tissue and will replace it with Gutta Percha, a neutral material.

If a root canal is not performed and the infection is left, it could spread to other areas of the mouth, including the teeth and gums, as well as the face, and could cause unimaginable pain and problems further down the line – an abscess may also develop – which is why time is of the essence and you should not delay in having the work done.

A continuous throbbing pain in your tooth will normally signal that something is not right and this will more than likely mean that an infection has got into the tooth which needs addressing. The throbbing pain will be as a result of additional fluids placing more exertion on the nerve endings within the tooth itself. Sensitivity is also a common feature of an infected tooth, as is a painful toothache.

How do you get an infection in the first place?

Normally, if you get an infection in the pulp of the tooth, decay will prove to be the main culprit. For the pulp of the tooth to become infected, decay must have worked its way through the outer enamel and dentin of the tooth, which means that the problem will have been quite advanced for some time. With this in mind, root canal treatment will be needed as a matter of urgency as the infection will pose a very real risk to the overall health of the tooth, as well as the other surrounding teeth.

How does root canal treatment work?

As previously mentioned, if the pulp of your tooth is infected, you will be required to undergo root canal treatment as a matter of urgency. Most of the time you will be put under local anaesthetic and
you will have to have repeat visits to the dentist after treatment has been completed so that they can see whether everything is healing as it should be and check whether the infection has been completely eradicated.

The procedure itself, on paper, sounds pretty straight forward, but dentists are required to have an immense level of skill in order to perform the work correctly. Your dentist will drill the tooth so that they can clearly see the infected area and then will get rid of the pulp as well as the infection through the root canal. Depending on how bad the infection is, the procedure may have to be done through a number of root canals in a bid to make sure that the infection has been completely eradicated.

Once this has been completed, the dentist will then cleanse and shape the inside of the tooth and replace the pulp with a neutral material that will help to maintain the tooth’s function. Once the tooth has been refilled and sealed, this will hopefully mean that the infection cannot come back.

The majority of root canal procedures are successful, but, as with anything, there can be times when you may have to have further work done. Some treatments fail for a couple of reasons, with the most common blip being a failure to remove all the decay which caused the problem in the first instance. Another reason why a root canal may fail is if the tooth restoration has not been put in place correctly, which would consequently allow bacteria to get back into the structure of the tooth. Also, bacteria could start building up on the tooth again which would lead to decay setting in. However, the latter can be avoided if you exercise good oral habits such as brushing and flossing daily and attending regular check-ups at the dentist.

Will there be any pain with root canal treatment?

Most people assume that because of what root canal treatment involves, the procedure must be painful. In actual fact, it is no more painful than having a filling. The reason for this is that you are

anaesthetised, so you won’t feel anything. The tooth is numbed and advances in dentistry mean that treatment is over relatively quickly. It is to be expected that you will have a little discomfort after the procedure – a bit of sensitivity a couple of days after the work has been completed is perfectly normal – but over-the-counter painkillers should be able to ease this.