Save Your Natural Teeth with a Root Canal Treatment
What is Root Canal Treatment?
A root canal is a treatment to repair and save a badly damaged, decayed tooth, infected, or injured tooth. The procedure involves removing the damaged and infected tissue inside the tooth (the pulp, which is the nerve and blood supply of the tooth), cleaning and disinfecting it, and then filling it. The common causes affecting the pulp are a cracked tooth, a deep cavity, repeated dental treatment to the tooth, or trauma. The term “root canal” means cleaning the canals inside the tooth’s root. After the root canal treatment is done, the dentist builds the tooth back up and places a crown to restore the tooth. A crown is almost always placed afterward to restore the tooth to its original shape and to prevent the tooth from a future fracture as the root canal makes the tooth weak and brittle over time.
Damaged nerve tissues and tooth pulp give rise to bacteria. If untreated, the bacteria spread through the roots of the tooth to other tissues and surrounding teeth and could cause abscesses. Infections that go undiagnosed due to an untreated root canal can also cause swelling on the face and neck. You might need a root canal treatment if:
- The root cause of your tooth pain is severe decay caused by an untreated cavity.
- You experience a severe toothache when chewing food.
- There is prolonged pain in your teeth when exposed to heat/cold long after the source has been removed.
- You have darkened or discolored teeth.
- Your gums are swollen and tender.
- You suffer from gum disease.
- The dentin is exposed.
Remember, not every symptom indicates that you need to undergo a root canal procedure. While the above-mentioned signs may be an indication for a root canal treatment, it is always recommended to be concerned and seek expert assistance. You can call us at 978-607-0110 and fix an appointment to get yourself checked.
The treatment typically starts with a comprehensive assessment which includes an X-ray of the affected area. This helps in determining the severity and the extent to which the infection has spread so that your dentist can design a treatment plan that is specific to your case.
- The complete procedure is performed under the effect of local sedation which numbs the affected and the surrounding area.
- A rubber sheet is placed around the tooth to ensure that it remains dry and free of saliva.
- Once the tooth is prepared for the procedure, an access hole is drilled right upto the pulp tissue in the root area, after which the decayed nerves and the bacteria is removed.
- The treated tooth is finally flushed with a sterile solution. Clearing the tooth’s canal of diseases-causing bacteria and removing the infected and inflamed pulp is the core part of this procedure.
- Once this is done, the dentist seals the treated space using a temporary seal which is then permanently closed a week later.
You don’t require to follow a handbook of instructions on things to do before your root canal treatment. However, here are some of the things to do for a successful treatment of a tooth that needs a root canal:
- Avoid alcohol and tobacco a day before your appointment
- It’s better to eat before the root canal treatment since you’ll be numb for a couple of hours after
- Taking a painkiller or prescribed antibiotics before the appointment is necessary if you have any infections
- Come well-rested before the appointment
It’s best to ask your dentist everything related to the root canal treatment before your appointment to curb dental anxiety
Your root canal surgery may take as little as 45 minutes or as long as one and a half hour, depending on the tooth’s location. Ideally, your front teeth can take less time compared to molars because molars have multiple roots.
Apart from the tooth’s location, the amount of infection and how long the infection has lasted also affect the root canal procedure, taking about one or two visits.
In a dental office, the root canal procedure is performed by a root canal specialist, also known as an endodontist or a general dentist. Here’s how the procedure is conducted:
The tooth and the adjacent teeth are numbed by a local anesthetic. However, the anesthesia can take time to act if you have an acutely inflamed pulp (hot tooth).
- Dental Dam Placement:
A dental dam (thin rubber sheet) is placed on the affected tooth for the patient’s safety so that the affected tooth is treated without getting contaminated by the bacteria in the saliva.
- Access Hole:
A small hole is drilled on the top (biting) surface of the back tooth or the inside surface of the front tooth. This allows access to the pulp chamber and the canals in the root where the nerve and blood supply of the tooth is.
- Pulp Removal:
The infected pulp (nerve and blood supply) is removed from the pulp chamber and the canals in the roots with special instruments. Once removed, the tooth will no longer have any sensation left, and the chamber and canals are flushed thoroughly with an antiseptic and antibacterial agent.
- Disinfecting the Tooth:
The canals are enlarged and shaped to allow the filling and sealing agent to be placed. The disinfectant is applied again to ensure no remnants of infected tissue remain.
- Filling the Canal:
The root canal filling material is made of plant rubber (Gutta-percha) heated and pressed compactly in the root canal space. A sealer is placed before the gutta percha so that the canals are completely sealed, thus preventing the bacteria from re-entering and re-infecting the tooth roots.
- Sealing the Tooth:
A permanent or temporary root canal filling is placed in the access hole created initially. The dental dam is removed. If the tooth structure is broken down so the filling will not hold, the dentist may place a dental post in one of the canals, which acts as a reinforcement so the tooth structure can be built around it.
- After Care:
The dentist may prescribe an antibiotic to prevent infection and give instructions post-root canal treatment. It is normal to have some pain and discomfort on and around the tooth for a few days.
- Final Restoration:
After root canal treatment, the tooth will need a permanent restoration — a filling or a crown — to replace the lost tooth structure and provide a complete seal to the top of the tooth to prevent the tooth from getting re-infected with bacteria from the saliva.
Like any other kind of treatment, even the root canal procedure has some risks or complications associated with it, including:
- Missed Canal:
Sometimes, the dentist may miss a canal if there are more canals than normal or if they are in an abnormal position. This may cause the tooth to get re-infected.
Because the tooth that needed a root canal is left devoid of nerve and blood supply, it can become brittle over time and are prone to fracture. Sometimes the root could fracture or crack after the treatment due to the grinding habit or if the crown is not placed after the root canal treatment.
If there is insufficient or inadequate cleaning of the canal, accessory or lateral canals, or a fracture in the root, the root canal tooth can get re-infected.
- Fractured File:
Sometimes, a file used to clean and shape the canals could fracture and get stuck inside the canal, especially in a curved canal. If it is a tiny piece stuck at the top of the canal after the cleaning, it can be filled without complications. But if it is stuck before the cleaning is complete, it needs to be removed under a microscope and with ultrasonic instruments.
The canal may get perforated during filing, especially if curved or bent. Depending on the size and location of the perforation, it could be repaired.
- Endo-Perio Lesion:
The tooth needing root canal treatment could have a combined root infection and associated gum infection. This prediction could be questionable as they are difficult to treat with a continued source of bacteria.
Yes, preventing root canal infection is possible if you take the following steps:
- Brush and Floss:
Regular brushing and flossing is the key to preventing any decay that could lead to infected root canal.
- Maintain a Healthy Diet:
Avoid sugar and sugary drinks and processed food like chips, cookies, packaged cakes, sugary cereals, pasta, candy, and more for healthy teeth and gums.
- Visit the Dentist Regularly:
Regular visits every 6 months for cleaning and X-rays for early detection of decay or other infection are recommended.
- Wear a Mouthguard:
It is important to wear a mouthguard while playing sports to prevent face or mouth injury and dental fractures. Also, it is equally important to wear a seat belt to prevent tooth injury from an auto accident.
Once the anesthesia wears off, you may feel pain and soreness lasting two to seven days. But it should go down after a few days. Your dentist will recommend an over-the-counter painkiller for relief; you can take it if necessary. And if the pain or swelling doesn’t subside or worsen, contact your dentist.
The local anesthetic may last a few hours after the treatment, so wait for it to wear off before eating. Avoid having hot and hard food as you could risk burning your mouth or biting the treated tooth, which could hurt a lot. Take painkillers and antibiotics as directed. Do not exercise or do any strenuous activity for the day.
The tooth may feel sore on chewing or touching for the next few days. Avoid eating on that side and eat softer food. Take painkillers if needed.
Follow the instructions and return for a follow-up as directed by your dentist. The tooth may need final restoration (filling or crown). Even if the tooth does not hurt, don’t neglect going back to the dentist for the final restoration, as you risk the tooth fracturing or the tooth getting re-infected if not restored. Watch out for complications after the treatment. Contact your dentist if the pain or swelling worsens after a few days.