Root Canal Treatment
If you have been experiencing severe tooth pain, it is possible that you may require root canal treatment. If your tooth has become damaged or cracked, you have tooth decay, large fillings or have recently had a trauma to the tooth, the chance of a root canal procedure increases, as these scenarios all leave your tooth open to infection.
When is a root canal required?
Root canal treatment (or endodontics) is required when there is an infection deep within your tooth. The blood or nerve supply may be infected either due to an injury or a severe cavity. You may not experience any pain or discomfort during the early stages of an infection, however if your tooth changes colour and darkens that is a sign that your tooth nerve is in danger of dying. If left untreated, this kind of infection can not only be very painful but can lead to a tooth abscess or even tooth loss.
Five signs of infection:
- Serious toothache when eating, or when you put pressure on the tooth. Does it hurt when you bite down hard?
- Excessively sensitive teeth. Does the sensitive pain linger after the initial contact with hot or cold foods or drinks?
- Darkening of your tooth. Has your tooth changed colour? This may be a sign of the nerve dying.
- A small bump on the gum, close to the painful tooth.
- Tender or swollen gums around the tooth.
Why is it called a root canal?
The visible part of your tooth, above the gumline is called the ‘crown’. Below the gum, fixing the tooth to the jaw, is the ‘root’ of your tooth. The root canal system is a network that fills a central hollow area inside the tooth and down to the roots. Root canals are filled with loose connective tissue called ‘dental pulp’ and they are responsible for nourishing and hydrating the tooth, as well as reacting to hot and cold.
When an infection takes hold, it is this pulp which becomes inflamed, which is why it may be painful to eat or drink. Eventually a bacterial infection will cause the pulp to die. It is important to see your dentist if you are experiencing toothache, as the infection will not go away of its own accord and antibiotics cannot be used to treat a root canal infection.
If left untreated, a deep infection can spread through the whole root canal system of your tooth. In this case, the pain may subside, as the infection will have removed all the pulp.
What does treatment involve?
Root canal treatment removes all the infection from the tooth, before sealing the tooth to protect the damaged nerve and restore you back to good oral health. Endodontic treatment is always carried out by a specialist clinician and an anaesthetic is used to keep you comfortable through the process.
When you first come into practice, we will take an x ray to assess the status of the infection. Then a local anaesthesia is administered to the area and a piece of rubber material called a ‘rubber dam’ is placed around the tooth the keep it dry and accessible throughout the procedure. Once you are fully anaesthetised, your dentist will use specially designed tools to remove the infected tissue. Once it is clear, a rubber compound is used to fill the tooth where the root canal tissue previously was. This is usually finished with a temporary filling. This is the completed stage of your first visit. Following this, we create a custom-made crown to fit your tooth and this is fitted at your second visit.
How do I avoid a root canal?
Root canal treatment can be avoided by practicing good dental care. Regular visits to the practice for check-ups mean that your dentist is in a good position to pick up on any problems you may not have noticed. They will check any current fillings or crowns for damage or cracks. By treating issues in the early stages, you avoid infections and further complications that would ultimately lead to endodontic treatment.
Tooth decay is one of the common reasons for root canal infections. You can keep tooth decay at bay by brushing and flossing regularly, chewing sugar-free gum between meals and reducing the number of fizzy drinks and sugar in your diet.