Most people associate root canal treatments with pain, discomfort, and scary dental drills. But root canals have come a long way since their introduction and are now classified as a quick, painless procedure. If your tooth becomes infected and cannot be treated with a simple dental filling, your dentist may prescribe a root canal treatment. But before you go ahead with it, get to know the details of the procedure and why you may need it.
What is a Root Canal Treatment and When is it Needed?
The root canal is a natural cavity within the tooth that contains the pulp, nerves, and blood vessels. The nerves and blood vessels of the tooth are essential only during its development stage. They are no longer needed for the routine functioning of the tooth once the tooth has completely erupted. If the pulp gets infected due to decay or any form of injury, a root canal treatment is done to sterilize the root canals.
Root canal treatments are necessary to halt the progress of infection in a tooth. An infected pulp can lead to various dental problems like –
- Swelling and abscess due to the collection of pus around the infected region. Abscesses can also potentially spread to other regions of the face, head, and neck.
- Extreme pain, usually associated with abscesses.
- Bone loss around the infected region.
You might need to see a dentist for a root canal treatment if you notice the following signs and symptoms –
- Extreme pain while eating or applying pressure on your tooth
- Pus drainage from around the tooth
- Swollen and inflamed gums around a decayed or damaged tooth
- Sensitivity to hot or cold that lingers even after removal of the sensation
- A cracked or broken tooth
Procedure for Root Canal Treatment
A root canal treatment is done under local anesthesia and is completed in one or more scheduled appointments. The procedure is usually done by an endodontist, who specializes in diagnosing, treating, and preventing diseases of the tooth pulp and nerve supply.
The endodontist will usually take X-rays of your tooth to examine the extent of the infection and the shape of your root canals. Local anesthesia is then injected into the area around the tooth to numb it. A rubber dam is placed around the tooth to keep it dry from saliva and other liquids used during the procedure.
The endodontist begins by making an access opening into your tooth with a dental drill. All of the pulp, decayed tissue and debris are removed from the tooth using small needle-like instruments known as dental files. The root canals are periodically flushed with saline water and sodium hypochlorite to completely disinfect the canals from bacteria and debris.
If the root canal requires multiple sittings, the endodontist will place a temporary filling material in the cavity to prevent contamination with food and saliva in between appointments. Once the root canals are completely sterile, the tooth is permanently sealed with an inert filling material called gutta-percha.
Most endodontists recommend getting a dental crown after the completion of a root canal treatment. This is done to improve the structural integrity of the tooth that can get compromised after a root canal treatment.
There may be times when a root canal treatment may need to be coupled with endodontic surgery. This is usually done in re-treatment cases or previously failed root canal treatments. The main aim of endodontic surgery is to target the infection in the bone surrounding the tips of the root. The gum tissue is lifted from around the tooth and the infected bone tissue is removed. If required, a small section of the root tip may also be removed. A small amount of filling material is placed around the root tip to completely seal the root canal.
What to Expect After a Root Canal Treatment?
The numbness after a root canal treatment may last for a couple of hours, but you should be able to go back to your normal routine after your appointment. Your dentist may advise you on some eating precautions in between your appointments. You may also experience some amount of discomfort and sensitivity immediately after your appointment. This is normal and due to tissue inflammation, and it usually goes away on its own. Your dentist will usually prescribe some over-the-counter medication to help you remain more comfortable after your procedure.
Once your root canal treatment is complete, it is important to take care of your tooth by maintaining good oral hygiene.
Complications Associated with a Root Canal Treatment
With a success rate of more than 95%, root canal treatments can save your natural tooth and extend its lifespan considerably. However, some complications may occasionally arise and affect the overall outcome of a root canal procedure. These include –
- Presence of additional root canals in the tooth that could not be identified during the treatment. Root canals that remain unclean can reintroduce infection into the tooth and cause problems in the future.
- Inadequate filling material or defective sealing of the tooth that can lead to bacteria seeping into the canals and causing re-infection.
- A crack in the tooth root, which prevents proper sealing of the tooth and becomes a passage for the introduction of bacteria.
Cost of a Root Canal Treatment
Most people see root canal treatments as a major investment. The cost can vary according to the complexity of the case and the type of tooth being treated. Moreover, getting a dental crown adds substantially to the overall cost of a root canal procedure.
Nonetheless, restoration of a natural tooth should always be a preference over getting it extracted. Compared to restoring a natural tooth, replacing an extracted tooth with fixed restorations like dental implants and dental bridges is usually a costlier option. Additionally, failing to replace an extracted tooth can lead to more dental problems. This includes difficulties with chewing, and bite problems due to drifting of adjacent teeth into the missing tooth spot.
While there may be alternatives available for root canal treatments, they are usually costlier, require additional procedures, and more treatment time. Visit Anoka Dental today for all your tooth-related problems and get in touch with our expert team to know more about root canal treatments.