The Truth About Root Canal Treatment
Here at Ivory Dental, we know lots of people are fearful about having a root canal treatment. Some of these fears may stem from the fact that people are often in severe pain or discomfort when they need root canal therapy. It might seem especially frightening for anyone with dental fears and phobias, and who can’t routinely visit the dentist. Unfortunately, only seeing a dentist when you are in pain can reinforce these fears, but we can assist you.
If this sounds familiar, we want to reassure you because root canal therapy1 really is an excellent procedure, and there is nothing to feel worried about. Far from being scary, root canal treatment is a procedure that can quickly help you feel more comfortable, relieving the pain of a severe tooth infection while saving your tooth from extraction. Before root canal therapy was developed, dentists had no other choice but to remove the infected tooth. Regular patients at our practice will know tooth removal is something we strive very hard to avoid and it’s definitely the last resort!
Why Do People Need Root Canal Treatment?
Root canal treatment is a procedure specifically designed to maintain a tooth, where the inner part of the tooth called the dental pulp has sustained extensive damage, often from untreated tooth decay. Usually, a healthy tooth has a pulp chamber right at its center and which contains the dental pulp, consisting of nerves, blood vessels, and connective tissues. The pulp extends into the root canals in the tooth roots. This softer part of the tooth is protected by the outer layers of your tooth structure which include the dentin that is covered by a tough layer of tooth enamel.
When tooth enamel is damaged or becomes chipped or cracked in any way, bacteria in your mouth can get inside the tooth. Initially, these bacteria will erode the dentin, causing a cavity. At this stage, if you see a dentist, the tooth can be filled, preserving and protecting it. Otherwise, without treatment, the cavity will continue to get larger and deeper and will eventually reach the pulp chamber. Not surprisingly, when bacteria infect the pulp and the nerves contained within it, it can get pretty painful! As the infection progresses, it can eventually kill the nerves in the dental pulp. At this stage, it might seem as if your toothache has become better, but don’t be fooled because the infection will remain and can only worsen. You must get professional dental care to eliminate the infection as it will not clear up without treatment. There is always a reason why teeth begin to ache.
What Is Root Canal Treatment?
Root canal treatment is a technique that allows our dentist Dr. Benjamin Hull to access the infected and dying dental pulp. The procedure is done using a local anesthetic, so don’t worry because you won’t feel a thing and the discomfort should little different than having a filling. The dental pulp is accessed through the crown of the tooth which is the part normally visible in your mouth. Once Dr. Hull can see the pulp, he will remove all the infected tissues. It is quite an intricate procedure because it’s important to make sure all the pulp tissue is thoroughly removed, and the empty pulp chamber must be disinfected. We may use laser dentistry at this stage because the energy of a dental laser can help to sterilize the area being treated, eliminating bacteria that could otherwise re-infect the tooth. Please don’t worry, as laser dentistry is extremely gentle! Next, the empty pulp chamber is sealed using a neutral material called gutta-percha. It might take a few days for your tooth to settle down completely, but the severe pain of a tooth infection is eliminated. Once the tooth is restored, you will be able to chew and bite food without any pain or discomfort.
Restoring Your Tooth
Because a tooth that has received root canal therapy is generally severely damaged, it’s usually necessary to cover up the entire tooth with a dental crown. Also, teeth that have undergone root canal treatment do tend to become more brittle and prone to fracturing, and this is a significant reason why root canal therapy can fail. Covering up the entire tooth protects the remaining tooth structure, and afterward, your tooth should look as good as new, or hopefully even better than before.
If appearance is a particular concern, for example, when restoring a front tooth, we can provide the very latest all-ceramic crowns made from a strong, durable material called zirconia, and these crowns can look amazing. Unlike a standard dental crown which has a metal substructure that is covered up with porcelain, zirconia crowns are entirely metal-free, allowing the light to pass through the crown in a way that is very similar to a natural tooth, closely replicating the vibrancy and liveliness seen in real teeth.
Looking After Your Root Treated Tooth
Looking after your tooth following root canal treatment is very straightforward. You must make sure you brush your teeth twice a day and floss each day thoroughly. Regular checkups and professional dental cleanings2 with us here at Ivory Dental are crucial for maintaining healthy teeth and gums. Our dentists can check the condition of restorations, including dental crowns at every visit. Also, regular checkups are the best way to avoid severe tooth infections. By regularly monitoring your dental health, we can detect signs of decay or damage to a tooth, hopefully well before it has become substantially infected.
Lastly, if you do have a toothache or have noticed it is painful to bite or chew on a tooth, please come and see our dentist as soon as possible. Root canal treatment is likely to be more successful the sooner we can treat your tooth, and we are extremely gentle and compassionate, especially when treating someone who is feeling scared or anxious about receiving dental treatment. Sometimes a particularly severe tooth infection may be beyond saving. We’d much prefer to treat you earlier when we can save the tooth! Another thing to remember is that severe tooth infections can spread, and in the worst case may even become life-threatening. If you have an aching tooth but notice you have other symptoms such as facial swelling or that you feel feverish or unwell, please seek emergency dental care as soon as you can.