PAIN! That’s the first thought that goes through may people’s minds when they hear the term “root canal.” But honestly, it’s not something to be worried about. Root canal treatment removes infection and protects teeth from further decay. This dental procedure is done to remove pain from the tooth that is infected. It is also called endodontic therapy.
Infection is generally seen in the pulp of the tooth, or the interior part of the tooth. Root canal therapy removes this infected pulp and puts a stop to further bacterial infection. The hollow portion of the teeth is cleansed and sealed, and this saves the teeth.
Why do you need root canal treatment?
The root canal is the soft tissue or pulp seen inside the tooth. The tooth has several protective coverings. The outer layer is called the dental enamel, dentine, inner pulp and another protective layer covering the root of the tooth. The pulp nourishes the tooth and gives tooth the feature to react to hot or cold food consumed. Nerves of the tooth present in the pulp are what helps the tooth feel different temperatures.
Teeth can get damaged due to various reasons. Trauma, accidents or severe infections affect the core of the tooth. This invites bacterial action and the pulp gets inflamed and infected. The infection creates an abscess at the root of the tooth. This is a pus filled space at the base of the tooth. This is the very last stage of tooth infection. A severe toothache is felt, swelling in the face or cheeks is seen, and bone loss in the area, change of colour of the gums – all these are seen when there is infection.
Root canal treatment is done to save the tooth and these days due to advancement in dental medicine it is as simple as a normal filling. When decay sets in, due to pain and also due to infection, the tooth would have lost its chewing efficiency. Saving the tooth with root canal treatment reduces the pain felt while chewing food, and chewing efficiency returns. The appearance of the tooth is retained and the neighbouring teeth are protected from decay and damage.
The root canal procedure
Root canal treatment would require one or more dental consultations. Dental examinations are required to diagnose the issue at hand. X rays are taken to know the extent of the problem. This will also help give a real picture of the root canal and also if the infections have spread to other tissues.
The nature of treatment and the procedure will be decided after checking how much the infection has spread. Anaesthesia is administered before the start of the treatment. The treatment consists of three main steps – cleaning the root canal, filling the canal and protecting the teeth with a crown.
After the patient is relaxed and under the effect of anaesthesia, the infected tooth will be drilled open. This will be followed by removing the infection from the core of the teeth. Cleaning of the root canal is done thoroughly to remove any infected pulp. All the pulp is removed from the core, the walls of the tooth are also scraped and cleaned. From time to time in the process, water is also used to wash out the debris.
Filling the root canal area is the next step. Different procedures are adopted by dentists – some would do the filling the same day and seal it. Others would apply medication to remove all the infections and then later do the filling. If medication is applied, then a temporary filling is done, this makes sure that the root canal is not damaged further. The root canal filling is a rubber like material and it is mixed with glue for the filling to set in the root canal.
Restoring the teeth is the final step. The tooth that needs a root canal will have suffered damage and would require extra support. This is given by placing crowns on the treated tooth. Placing crowns will give complete protection and also stop further damage to the tooth. This also helps the tooth to function properly.
Caring for teeth after the procedure
Few days after the treatment, the teeth will be sensitive, care should be taken to avoid chewing hard food. Until the teeth is restored, this should be followed as the teeth can chip off. There will be pain after the procedure, this will heal after a few days. If the pain persists, it is important to check with the dentist. Swelling of the face and pain spreading to the cheeks and neck might also be experienced. Pain killers can be consumed to help with the pain.
Teeth sensitivity will be felt after the effect of anaesthesia wears off. This is because of the removal of the infected pulp after the tooth has been drilled open. Medicines are given to help with the pain and discomfort. If temporary fillings are placed during the procedure then extra care should be given. Teeth will get further impaired as the affected teeth have not be restored completely. If the filling or the crown comes out, then help from the dentist must be sought.
Brushing should be done twice in a day preferably after consuming food in the morning and night. Special care should be given when brushing around the tooth that has been given the treatment. To continue having good oral health, sugary food should be avoided. Sugar tends to stick to the teeth and invites bacterial action. Brushing regularly helps to remove the sugary food from sticking to the teeth. Having the teeth professionally cleaned by a dentist twice in a year will help to remove any plaque or tartar formation on the teeth.
Dentists always suggest root canal than removing teeth. When teeth are removed, the remaining neighbouring teeth will shift and this can cause overcrowding of teeth. Root canal treatment helps to restore the natural teeth by restoring it. Further decay is stopped and teeth continue to provide the support they provide to oral health.