What is a root canal?
Although our teeth are protected on the outside by a hard layer known as the enamel, their interior is hollow and filled with a soft, nervous tissue known as the dental pulp. The hollow region inside each tooth root is shaped like a canal, and is hence named as the root canal. The front teeth usually have a single root canal, while the molars and the premolars tend to have multiple root canals.
What is a root canal treatment?
Root canal treatment is a dental procedure which is performed to save an infected tooth from extraction. If your dentist has recommended a root canal treatment for one of your teeth, then here’s everything that you need to know about this procedure.
Root canal treatment is usually required in cases where the nervous tissue of the teeth, the dental pulp, becomes irreversibly inflamed or infected.
A root canal procedure simply refers to an endodontic (endo = inside, odont = tooth) procedure which involves the infected pulp from inside the tooth, followed by cleaning and shaping of the canals and filling them with an inert material. The idea behind this exercise is to relieve the dental infection without pulling the tooth out, and to avoid re-infection.
What are the signs that you need a root canal treatment?
If you’re having any of the following dental problems, then you should visit your dentist immediately, as you may require a root canal treatment:
- Root Canal Pain: if you are having severe, continuous, or throbbing pain in one of your teeth which does not go away even after taking a pain-killer, then it indicates towards an underlying infection. The pain can also be triggered by taking hot or cold food items.
- Swelling: swelling around the affected tooth is a characteristic sign of underlying inflammation. In the advanced stages of an infection, plus containing a pimple or a bump can appear around the infected tooth.
- Discoloration: dental pulp can also get inflamed in case of a direct injury or trauma to the tooth. In this case, blood accumulates inside and results in the grayish or dark appearance of the tooth. Such situations also require a root canal procedure.
- Difficulty in Eating: another classic sign of an underlying pulp infection is pain on biting from the affected tooth. This is because of the pressure which is exerted onto the pulp during chewing.
- Fever: long standing infection or inflammation of the dental pulp can also result in high-grade fever.
What is the root canal procedure like?
A root canal procedure is normally completed in 2-3 appointments. However, in case of teeth which have a single root, some dentists may complete the procedure in one sitting. Here’s what you can expect during a root canal procedure:
- Clinical Examination: When you visit your dentist with a painful tooth, he or she will first determine the cause and location of the pain. This will be done with the help of a thorough clinical examination. Your dentist may also look at x-ray images of the affected side of the jaw to exactly pin-point the location of the infected tooth. The x-rays are also required for visualizing the shape and length of the canals, for preparing an appropriate treatment plan.
- Administration of Local Anesthesia: Root canal treatment is a surgical procedure. Therefore, it is performed under the effect of local anesthesia. In case of highly anxious or apprehensive patients, the dentist may choose to reduce their anxiety by using conscious sedation.
- Preparing the Access Cavity: once you are completely relaxed and pain-free, your dentist will gain access inside the affected tooth by drilling a hole. Once the pulp chamber is reached, the access cavity is broadened to allow for easy insertion and removal of endodontic instruments.
- Removing the Infected Pulp: the infected pulp from the root canals is removed with the help of various endodontic instruments. The root canal is frequently irrigated with saline or an antibacterial solution to ensure complete pulp removal.
- Shaping the Canal: in the next step, your dentist will use endodontic of various sizes to shape the root canals in such a way that they are constricted at the bottom, while they are broader at the upper end. This is done for placement of an inert material that fits snugly inside the canal and minimizes the chances of re-infection. After canal preparation, your dentist will fill them with a medicament to accelerate the healing. If required, you may also be prescribed with antibiotics and painkillers to subside the infection and pain.
- Obturation and Temporary Restoration: Once complete healing has taken place, your dentist will fill the prepared canals with a rubber-like material. Afterwards, the tooth is temporarily filled and allowed to heal. In the next appointment, your dentist will make an x-ray image of the tooth to visualize the progress of healing and if it is satisfactory, a permanent filling will be placed over the tooth.
Reinforcing the treated tooth with a crown
When a root canal treatment procedure is performed on a tooth, it loses its blood supply. As a result, the tooth tends to become brittle. Therefore, dentists recommend that after complete healing has taken place in a root canal treated tooth, it must be immediately restored with a crown to avoid fracture.
Will a root canal treatment procedure hurt?
The simple answer to this question is: no. Why? Because your dentist will make you pain-free by administering anesthesia. This means that you will not feel anything while your dentist performs the procedure. For patients who are afraid of the needle, dental equipment or the dental environment, your dentist may choose to perform the procedure under conscious sedation. In this type of sedation, the patient becomes drowsy and does not remember anything about the procedure, but is conscious enough to respond to the dentist’s instructions.
No doubt, the root canal procedure is an effective treatment option for getting rid of infections of the pulp. However, it can be avoided very easily! By simply ensuring that you brush and floss your teeth regularly and visiting your dentist frequently, you can prevent all types of dental infections. So, why spend money on your treatment when you can simply avoid dental problems by maintaining a good oral hygiene?