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When a tooth has undergone heavy damage from decay, and bacteria has infected the tooth, a root canal treatment is performed to remove the bacteria infection and save the tooth, as opposed to removing the whole tooth. This article explains everything you need to know about root canal treatment.

What is Root Canal Treatment?

A root canal treatment is a complex procedure which is performed to remove inflamed or infected dental nerve tissue from the inside of a tooth, thereby stopping any pain.

When is a Root Canal Treatment Performed?

The dental pulp is the innermost layer of a tooth, and it contains the nerves and blood vessels. On the outside, our teeth are protected by a hard, mineralized layer known as the enamel. Between the enamel and the pulp is the softer dentine, which contains nerve endings originating in the pulp.

 tooth with caries

When a tooth has extensive cavities or if it gets damaged as a result of an accident, the nerves and blood vessels in the dentine and pulp become exposed to the oral environment, which may cause sensitivity to cold or hot. This problem, if it is superficial, can be treated by simply restoring the tooth with a filling.

However, if this situation persists, damage to the tooth continues and ultimately the pulp tissue becomes inflamed. When this happens, there tends to be severe, continuous pain which does not go away, even after taking pain medication. At this stage, in order to save the tooth from extraction, an option would be to perform a root canal treatment.

What are the Signs that you Need a Root Canal Treatment?

If you are having some or all of the following problems, then you may need a root canal treatment:

  • Pain – the pain associated with inflammation of the pulp tissue is severe and continuous. In most cases, the pain is so severe that forces the patients to visit their dentists in an emergency.
  • Chewing Pain – in advanced cases, patients may feel severe pain whenever they bite on food with the affected tooth.
  • Swelling – inflammation of the pulp tissue can also lead to swelling of the soft tissues around the affected tooth.
  • Pus – in some cases, pus can be seen oozing out of the soft tissues surrounding the damaged tooth.
  • Loose Tooth – when the infection from the pulp travels to the structures surrounding the damaged tooth, the periodontal tissue, which anchors the tooth to the bone gets destroyed. As a result, the tooth becomes loose and may ultimately fall off if treatment is not sought.

Asian woman toothache

If you feel that you are suffering from some of the above-mentioned problems, then you should visit us immediately to avoid permanent damage to the tooth.

How is Root Canal Treatment Performed?

Root canal treatment is usually performed in 2-3 appointments of 1 hour each. Some of the steps involved in root canal treatment include:

  • Imaging and Treatment Planning – first, your dentist will perform a clinical examination, and test the tooth as well as the neighbouring teeth to rule out any other issues. X-ray images of your teeth may be taken to visualize the extent of the infection as well as shape and number of the roots of the affected tooth.
  • First Root Canal Visit – Under local anaesthesia, the dentist will access the pulp chamber to remove the pulp within the tooth. At this point, we will put an antibacterial medicament inside the tooth, followed by placing a temporary filling to seal the area while the medication takes effect.
  • Cleaning the Root Canals and Pulp Chamber – during the next appointment, we will remove the temporary filling and the medicament to assess the healing. We will also use special instruments to remove the infected pulp from the tooth crown and root canals. Afterwards, we will thoroughly wash and disinfect the tooth’s interior. If required, our dentists will place the medicament again to ensure proper healing.
  • Obturation – once sufficient healing has taken place, we will thoroughly clean and dry the tooth’ interior, and then seal it up with an inert material. This is done to prevent future chances of infection.
  • Permanent Restoration – finally, when the surgical site has healed completely, our dentists will restore the tooth with a permanent core buildup which serves as a foundation for the final crown restoration. A post may be necessary if the tooth is badly broken down, and it is used in order to support the core.
  • Crown restoration – This can be done at the same time as the Obturation visit of the root canal treatment. We usually recommend a ceramic or zirconia crown as they preserve more of the tooth structure compared to metal ceramic crowns. Read more on crowns here.

Reinforcing the Tooth

Teeth that require root canal treatment tend to have very little tooth structure remaining, due to the previous decay or damage. Therefore, they must be reinforced by using a crown, which covers the entire top and sides of the tooth. Reinforcing the teeth with crowns becomes even important for the back teeth, which undergoes very high chewing forces. Otherwise, weakened teeth may fracture as a normal filling is not strong enough to protect the tooth. If the tooth fractures and exposes the root canal filling, the whole root canal may need to be redone as infection may have penetrated the tooth. Therefore, we always recommend for the crown to be done immediately after the root canal treatment to protect the tooth.

At Dental Designs Clinic, we make every attempt to save each tooth from extraction, so that you may continue to use your teeth. In some cases, if the tooth is too badly broken down, extraction may be necessary. We can help with the replacement of the tooth by using a dental bridge, or a dental implant.

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