What is root canal therapy?
Endodontics involves the treatment of the tooth pulp containing the nerve of the tooth and the tissues surrounding the root of the tooth. If the pulp becomes diseased or injured, it may be unable to repair itself. If untreated, this can become extremely painful and lead to the loss of the tooth.
You may have root canal disease if you are experiencing the following symptoms:
- Lingering sensitivity to either hot or cold liquids
- Sensitivity to sweets
- Pain from bite pressure
- Pain that is referred from a tooth to another area, such as the neck, temple, or the ear
- Spontaneous toothache
- Constant or intermittent pain
- Throbbing pain
- Pain that may occur in response to atmospheric pressure changes, such as when flying or scuba diving
- Pain that may occur in response to postural changes, such as moving from standing to a reclining position
Root canal therapy removes the diseased pulp tissue, which is composed of a nerve and blood supply within the tooth. After all the material has been removed from within the root, the tooth’s canal – or canals if it is a multi-rooted tooth – are sterilized and sealed with a material that prevents bacteria from re-entering.
Because a root canal removes everything that feeds the tooth and keeps it alive, the tooth will become brittle after a period of time. This time period varies from person to person which is why the tooth should be restored as quickly as possible.
Your dentist might recommend that a post and a crown be placed as a final restoration. Back teeth are usually crowned shortly after a root canal has been performed to prevent the tooth from shattering due to the pressure put on it by chewing.
While there are many preconceptions about the pain associated with root canal therapy, it is not typically considered painful and it can be performed in one visit. The discomfort associated with root canal therapy is normally due to the root pulp infection and should subside once treatment commences.
The Basics of Root Canal Treatment
Many patients have heard of root canal treatments at the dentist, but they don’t really know what a root canal treatment is. If you are scheduled for a root canal appointment, but do not know what to expect, be sure to read the information below, where we have created an overview of the root canal treatment.
When Is a Root Canal Treatment Performed?
Dentists will execute a root canal treatment when a patient suffers from an infection at the centre of the tooth, an area that is also known as the root canal system. An infection of the root canal system can have numerous causes; this includes but is not limited to tooth decay, faulty fillings and trauma to the teeth.
To understand the way in which an infection of the root canal system impacts the tooth, we need to look closer at the structure of the tooth. The tooth generally consists of two parts, the crown and the root. The crown is the part that is visible, while the root is situated underneath the gums and keeps the tooth in place.
The tooth can be divided further in various structures. Firstly, there is the enamel, which is the outer layer of the tooth that protects the inner structure against damage. Right underneath the enamel, there is dentine, the material that forms the biggest part of the tooth and supports the enamel. There is also a layer that protects the surface of the root in the gums; this layer is called the cementum. At the centre of the tooth, there is also dental pulp; this pulp contains nerves, blood and other important systems that keep the teeth healthy.
When a patient suffers from an infection of the root canal system, the infection will affect the inner structure of the tooth; this includes the dental pulp we mentioned earlier. If the dental pulp has been damaged by this bacterial infection, it will show up on an x-ray taken by your dentist. Then, the dentist usually decides to perform a root canal treatment, because if the infected pulp is not removed, the dental pulp will decay and the infection will spread further.
What Are the Symptoms of the Root Canal System Infection?
A bacterial infection in the root canal is usually accompanied by numerous symptoms. Unfortunately, these symptoms are often ignored by patients until the infection progresses. Therefore, it is extremely important to make an appointment with your dentist when you experience these symptoms yourself.
The first symptoms that appear with an infection of the root canal system is pain while eating and drinking. The patient can also experience increased sensitivity when the teeth encounter hot or cold temperatures. The patient will experience pain when biting and chewing. Lastly, there is also a possibility that one of your teeth appears to be loose.
There is usually a grace period between symptoms, because symptoms of a root canal infection can disappear when the dental pulp has died. Most patients believe that their problem is solved, even though the infection is spreading through the root canal system of the infected tooth. Over time, the patient will start to experience the symptoms again, but also encounter additional problems such as swelling of the gums, pus and the affected tooth becoming much darker.
The impact of an infection of the root canal is certainly proof that a toothache should never be ignored. The infection does not respond to antibiotics either, so patients must make an appointment with their dentist to get this problem solved.
How Is Root Canal Treatment Performed?
To remove the infection and the bacteria from the root canal system, the dentist must physically remove the bacteria from the inner structure of the tooth. Depending on the severity of the infection, the dentist can therefore remove the bacteria manually or remove the affected tooth by extracting it. Since maintaining as much natural teeth as possible is important for your dental health, the dentist will only remove an affected tooth when there is no other treatment option. Of course, the sooner you visit the dentist for a possible root canal infection, the more likely it is that your dentist can save your tooth.
Before the dentist treats the infected area, the patient is given a local anaesthetic to numb the treatment area; this will make sure that the patient is comfortable and does not experience pain during the procedure. However, if you are quite anxious about your procedure, do not hesitate to speak to your dentist about the procedure beforehand and convey your concerns.
Is There Anything I Should Consider for Aftercare?
There are some factors patients need to consider when they recover from a root canal treatment. Firstly, it is important that patients take excellent care of their teeth, since the tooth can be more susceptible for further infection shortly after the treatment. During your root canal treatment, or shortly after, patients should also avoid biting on hard foods. The treatment area can be quite sensitive for a time, so patients must be more careful until the area has healed properly.
Patients who experience some discomfort after their root canal treatment can get some pain relief from over-the-counter pain medication; this could include medications such as paracetamol and ibuprofen. If you should experience additional pain or swelling after the use of over-the-counter pain medication, you should make another appointment with your dentist for a follow-up.
Can a Root Canal Infection Be Prevented?
There are some things patients can do to prevent a root canal infection. The first thing patients must do is maintain a good oral hygiene routine; this includes brushing, flossing and using a good mouthwash. It is also advised to limit your intake of sugary foods and give up smoking. So, if you take good care of your teeth, you could prevent a root canal infection from returning.
Can I Get Root Canal Treatment at Bond Street Dental?
The Bond Street Dental team provides root canal treatment and other general dentistry services. If you believe you may suffer from a root canal infection, please make an appointment by contacting our clinic via telephone or email.
Root canal therapy is something that could be avoided, because most cases of root canal disease are caused by poor oral hygiene. Therefore, maintaining a good oral hygiene routine can prevent severe consequences of tooth decay; this includes root canal disease and even the loss of teeth. If you have been struggling with tooth decay despite a good oral hygiene routine and a healthy lifestyle, we urge you to make an appointment with our dentists or dental hygienist. In some cases, there can be an underlying condition causing dental problems, or your current dental hygiene products are not suitable for you. By making an appointment at our clinic, you can determine the cause of your tooth decay and possibly avoid root canal therapy in the future.
Good oral hygiene is essential to keep your mouth healthy, but so is a regular trip to the dental hygienist. Unfortunately, most Australians only visit the dentist when they encounter a dental problem such as a cavity or a broken tooth. This ends up costing them quite a bit in treatment long-term, while a simple annual visit to the dental hygienist or dentist could have prevented the problem altogether. So, if you are overdue a visit to your dental surgery, be sure to make an appointment as soon as possible.