Mention the term ‘Root canal’ to anyone and chances are that it’s enough to turn them ashen-faced as they anxiously picture the notion of being in excruciating pain as their dentist grapples with the said problem – sweat pouring from their brow in the process…
In reality, this couldn’t be further from the truth and in fact, root canal treatment, or root canal therapy as it is often called, is a proven and comfortable process that is carried out to repair and save a tooth.
There are in fact millions of root canal treatments performed worldwide each and every year, so if your dentist has told you that you need a root canal then don’t worry because you’re certainly not alone. In this post, we’re going to put your mind at ease by explaining what you can and should expect from a root canal procedure and how it can even get you out of pain.
Firstly, what is a root canal?
To understand the procedure it helps to know a little about the anatomy of a tooth. The tooth itself is made up of several layers including the outer enamel and inner dentin which together encase a soft tissue known as the pulp. The pulp itself, contained within a root canal structure, houses all the inner workings of the tooth including the nerves, blood vessels, and connective tissue.
It extends from the crown of the tooth down into the tooth root and is vital during a tooth’s development. However, once the tooth is fully grown, it can be nourished by the tissues surrounding it and therefore, without the pulp, a tooth can still survive.
Sometimes the soft tissue inside the root canal can become infected or inflamed. This can be caused by deep decay, cracks, chips, tooth trauma or injury.
If any inflammation or infection is left untreated, it can cause much discomfort including abscesses and pain.
There are a few symptoms that could dictate that you need root canal therapy including:
- Sudden and severe pain while biting or chewing
- A badly chipped or cracked tooth
- Sensitivity to hot or cold items even after the stimulus has been removed
- Tender or swollen gums
- Signs of deep decay or abscesses forming.
In essence, your dentist will enter the root canal area of the affected tooth and remove any inflamed or infected pulp. The empty pulp chamber is then carefully cleaned and then back-filled with a restorative material, thus closing the chamber. Once this is complete the dentist will look to protect the tooth by placing a restoration such as a dental crown. This helps to strengthen the tooth and restore it to its full function.
Here is the step-by-step root canal procedure…
Root canal therapy step 1 – The preparation
The first step in any root canal treatment is to closely examine the area. To do this the dentist will first take a series of X-rays. Using these as a guide they will then numb the area around the tooth. While the anaesthetic is taking hold, the problem tooth is isolated by placing a ‘dental dam’ or small protective rubber sheet over the area. This helps to keep it clean and free from saliva during the root canal procedure.
Root canal treatment step 2 – Removing the infected pulp
Once your dentist is sure that you are comfortable and the anaesthetic has taken hold, they will begin. First, a small opening is carefully made in the crown of the tooth. Then, using very small instruments, any infected or decaying pulp is removed from the root canal chamber. When all the pulp has been removed, the inner tooth chamber is then thoroughly cleaned and re-shaped.
Root canal procedure step 3 – Sealing the pulp chamber
Once the space is cleaned and infection-free, the now empty root canal is back-filled with a bio-compatible rubber-like material such as gutta-percha. This chamber is then sealed with cement to prevent any further infection from entering. Finally, a temporary crown is placed over the tooth to protect it.
This part of the process is usually carried out in one sitting and should typically take no more than about 90 minutes. On some occasions, however, the tooth may lack the structure needed to hold the restoration in place. If this the case your dentist may look to insert a supporting post down into the tooth. For this reason, some treatments may take longer.
Irrespective of the treatment, patients should feel little or no discomfort during the process. Also and importantly, by the end of the procedure, patients who were previously experiencing tooth pain should no longer feel any discomfort.
Root canal procedure part 2 – Fitting the permanent crown
The final stage of the root canal treatment process is to remove any temporary crown and fit the permanent restoration. This is made to match your existing teeth and will not only protect the tooth for many years to come but also restore full biting and chewing functionality once again.
For a few days after, patients may want to avoid any hard or chewy foods that might cause damage to their newly placed crown, but after that, they should be good to continue a normal life with a pain-free tooth and a new long-lasting restoration.
So there you have it…
We’ve answered the question ‘What is a root canal? and talked in detail about the treatment itself. Hopefully, this will put your mind at ease if you do require a root canal procedure either now or in the future, but when the time is right, why not give the team at Beyond Infinity Dental a call at (02) 8806 3799. We’ve successfully carried out many root canal treatments so you can rest assured that you are in safe and highly capable hands.