Medicine Information

Root Canal Therapy: Frequently Asked Questions


Overview

A diseased or injured nerve use to mean that you were likely to lose a tooth. This is no longer the case thanks to root canal therapy. The procedure can require up to three visits to the dentist but it causes little or no discomfort. The most significant upside is that it is possible to retain your tooth and save your smile.

What is a root canal treatment?

Each tooth contains pulp that supplies nutrients and nerves to the tooth. This pulp connects with the root. The pulp tissue perishes in the event that the pulp is diseased or injured. Opting not to act will mean your tooth will then become infected and you risk losing the tooth. Root canal therapy will salvage the damaged pulp in the root canal. The dentist will extract the diseased pulp, reshape the canal, seal it for protection and strengthen your tooth by fitting a crown.

Why do I need root canal treatment?

Not treating a diseased or injured nerve will cause the infection to spread as your tooth can not heal on its own. Pus develops at the root tip in the jawbone when not treated and forms a "pus-pocket" called an abscess. An abscess can cause damage to the bone around the teeth. The bone surrounding your tooth will breakdown and your tooth may loosen until it falls out. Pain typically increases.

You have another option aside from root canal therapy. You can choose to have the tooth extracted. This will be cheaper but leaves you with a missing tooth. The consequences include a bad bite as the surrounding teeth shift into crooked positions. This means it may be necessary for a bridge or an implant which are likely to be more expensive than root canal therapy. It is advisable to choose the root canal therapy as you will retain your original teeth.

How do I choose an appropriate dentist?

Your dentist can assist you with diseased and injured nerves within your teeth that require root canal therapy. It is generally a simple procedure. Do not hesitate to discuss other treatment options with your dentist.

What causes pulp nerve damage?

Trauma and physical irritation are the two common causes of pulp nerve damage. Sensitive nerve tissue within the tooth can be damaged by trauma to a tooth. This may be a result of a tooth being struck heavily. Physical irritation stems from the spreading of tooth decay to the nerve. The result is decay and infection as destructive bacteria comes into contact with the nerve.

What are the symptoms of pulp nerve damage?

There are several symptoms of pulp nerve damage. These can be similar to other conditions. It is therefore important to visit a dentist to determine the precise problem. The symptoms include a swollen face, heightened sensitivity in your teeth when consuming hot and cold drinks, pain in your tooth brought on by chewing and biting. It is worthwhile noting that each person may experience these symptoms to varying degrees.

What is a 'root canal'?

The pulp is soft tissue that contains the veins, arteries, nerves and lymph vessels belonging to your tooth. Pulp is located under your tooth's outer enamel and within the dentin. Root canals can be described as small and thin divisions that branch from the top pulp chamber and continue to the root.

What is the 'dental pulp'?

Inside each tooth is pulp which is the soft tissue that provides nutrients and nerves to the tooth. The pulp contains blood vessels, connective tissue and nerves. It runs like a thread down through the root.

What does treatment involve?

Root canal therapy requires up to three visits to the dentist. The treatment will progress through the steps outlined below.

1. An opening is created through the crown of the tooth into the pulp chamber.

2. The dental pulp is removed.

3. The root canal(s) is cleaned, enlarged, and shaped in order to be filled.

4. Medications may be inserted into the pulp chamber and root canal(s) so as to eliminate harmful bacteria and prevent further infection.

5. Your dentist may decide to drain the tooth by leaving the tooth uncovered for a couple of days. Otherwise a temporary filling will be used over the opening to protect the tooth before the next visit to the dentist. Medicine to control the infection may also be given to you. This is to assist in containing the infection beyond the tooth.

6. The pulp chamber and root canals are filled and sealed.

7. The temporary filling is removed and the pulp chamber and root canal(s) are cleaned and filled.

8. A gold or porcelain crown is placed over the tooth.

9. The crown of the tooth is then restored.

What is an 'endodontist'?

Endodontists are dentists specializing in diseases associated with dental pulp. They generally deal with more complex endodontic procedures not handled by general dentists. This may include the re-treatment of root canals that have not healed completely. Determining the reasons for oral and facial pain can also be done by Endodontists.

How long will the restored tooth last?

It is possible for your restored tooth to last a lifetime but it will depend on several items. It is imperative that the root(s) of the treated continue to be nourished by the surrounding tissue. It is also worth noting the importance of adopting good oral hygiene and regular visits to the dentist for a check-up.

Are there any risks?

A tooth in need of root canal therapy should be addressed immediately. Any delay is likely to cause abscess at the root of the tooth that will breakdown the bone tissue. It will be virtually impossible to save the tooth at this point and may result in the tooth falling out. The infection is also likely to spread to adjoining teeth which may lead to a swollen face and neck, blood poisoning, and fever.

Some patients have reportedly described having root canal therapy as being as unremarkable as having a filling. Root canal treatments are completed successfully most of time. On a very rare occasion the therapy may need to be redone due to the fracturing of a canal filing instrument used or a diseased canal going undetected.

What happens after treatment?

In some cases natural tissue inflammation may be the source of a little discomfort. This will probably last a few days and can be assisted by an analgesic purchased at a pharmacy or supermarket. Your dentist will want to monitor the healing tissue with a follow-up exam. It is advisable to avoid difficult to chew foods. It will also be important to practice good oral hygiene and visit your dentist for regular check-ups.

Dion Kramer is co-founder and managing director of NobleHealth. NobleHealth is a dental plan for the people of Brisbane, Australia. Members are entitled to 15% to 55% off their dental fees. Dion Kramer began writing about oral health to assist members of NobleHealth. Dion Kramer collaborates with NobleHealth dentists Brisbane so his writings are topical and up-to-date. You can visit the website to learn more about NobleHealth and their Brisbane dentists http://www.noblehealth.com.au


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