A diseased or injured nerve used to mean that you were likely to lose a tooth. This is no longer the case thanks to root canal therapy. The procedure can require up to three visits to the dentist but it causes little or no discomfort. The most significant upside is that it is possible to retain your tooth and save your smile.
What is a root canal
Each tooth contains pulp that supplies nutrients and nerves to the tooth. This pulp connects with the root. The pulp tissue perishes in the event that the pulp is diseased or injured. Opting not to act will mean your tooth will then become infected and you risk losing the tooth. Root canal therapy will salvage the damaged pulp in the root canal. The dentist will remove the diseased pulp, reshape the canal, seal it for protection and strengthen your tooth by fitting a crown.
What is the pulp and a root
The pulp is soft tissue that contains the veins, arteries, nerves and lymph vessels belonging to your tooth. Pulp is located under your tooth’s outer enamel and within the dentin. Root canals can be described as small and thin divisions that branch from the top pulp chamber and continue to the root.
Why do I need root canal
Not treating a diseased or injured nerve will cause the infection to spread as your tooth cannot heal on its own. Pus develops at the root tip in the jawbone when not treated and forms a "pus-pocket" called an abscess. An abscess can cause damage to the bone around the teeth. The bone surrounding your tooth will breakdown and your tooth may loosen until it falls out. Pain typically increases.
What is the alternative option if I don’t want the root canal treatment?
You can choose to have the tooth extracted. This will be cheaper but leaves you with a missing tooth. The consequences may include a bad bite as the surrounding teeth shift into crooked positions or further damage to the remaining teeth that have to work harder to make up for the missing tooth. This means it may be necessary for a bridge or an implant which are likely to be more expensive than root canal therapy. It is advisable to choose the root canal therapy as you can retain your original teeth.
What causes pulp nerve
Trauma and physical irritation are the two common causes of pulp nerve damage. Sensitive nerve tissue within the tooth can be damaged by trauma to a tooth. This may be a result of a tooth being struck heavily. Physical irritation stems from the spreading of tooth decay to the nerve. Nerves can also become damaged as a result of having a recent or old deep filling which is close to the nerve.
What are the symptoms of pulp
There are several symptoms of pulp nerve damage. These can be similar to other conditions. It is therefore important to visit a dentist to determine the precise problem. The symptoms can include a swollen face, heightened sensitivity in your teeth when consuming hot and cold drinks, pain in your tooth brought on by chewing and biting. It is worthwhile noting that each person may experience these symptoms to varying degrees. On occasion, a nerve can die and give no symptoms to the patient what so ever.
What does treatment involve?
Root canal treatment basically involves the dentist removing the infected pulp from your root canal system. This is followed by shaping the root canal system to allow it to be more easily cleaned and then it is filled all the way to the end of the root. The cleaning and shaping is done using a combination of instrumentation and medication. The tooth is then filled back to how it originally was.
Will I feel any pain during the treatment?
The dentist will anaesthetise (numb) the tooth using local anaesthetic just before starting the root canal treatment. Therefore, you shouldn’t feel any pain whilst you are having the root canal treatment. In the unlikely event you do start to feel pain during the treatment, please mention it to your dentist who will then consequently administer some more local anaesthetic.
Will I feel any pain after the treatment?
The amount and duration of the pain is variable from patient to patient It is possible to feel pain for up to a week after having a root canal treatment we often find any discomfort reduces dramatically after two days. This pain can normally be controlled by pain killers which can be purchased over the counter from a super market or a pharmacy. If you are still experiencing severe pain after a week, it is best to make an appointment to see your dentist.
Will I require any follow up treatment after having the root canal treatment?
If you have had a root canal treatment on back tooth, it is recommended that this tooth should have a crown or an onlay (partial crown which covers the top of the tooth) to protect the tooth. This is because the tooth will lose its flexibility after having root canal treatment which means it is a high risk of it fracturing. A crown or an onlay will prevent this from happening. It also seals the tooth effectively so there is less of a chance of the root canal becoming re-infected. Depending on how high the risk of your tooth breaking will determine when you are recommended to have a crown or an onlay on the tooth. Your dentist may recommend putting a crown on the tooth as soon as possible after the root can treatment if there is a high risk of the tooth breaking. If there is a less of a risk of the tooth breaking, your dentist may wait a few months before recommending a crown to ensure that the tooth has settled down.
What are the chances of the root canal treatment being successful?
The first thing you should be aware of that there is no 100% guarantee that root canal treatment is successful. Studies claim root canal treatment success rates can range from 60-90% depending on the study. The reason there is a range is due to there being several factors which determine whether your root canal treatment will be a success or not. For example, a tooth which has had a long standing infection and the nerve has been dead for a while will have a lower success rate compared to a tooth where a nerve has died recently. Other factors would be the difficulty of access to the tooth, the variation in the anatomy (shape) ie side branches bends and number of the roots.
How will I know if the root canal treatment is unsuccessful?
The commonest symptom will be discomfort it can be a grumble or something severe. Redness or swelling of the gum would be a cause for concern as would be coulpain will not go away if your root canal treatment is unsuccessful. Also, if the pain comes back from a previously root treated tooth, that is a sign that your root canal treatment you have had in the past is starting to fail. This can happen at any time due to a multitude of reasons.
What are my options if the root canal treatment is unsuccessful?
If the root canal treatment is deemed unsuccessful, a re-root canal treatment can be attempted. However, the success rate of a re-root canal treatment is generally lower if the original root canal treatment has been done to a good standard. You may also need to be referred to a specialist called an endodontist if it is a complicated case. The alternative option is to have the tooth extracted.
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This website was last updated March 2017