Root canals have long been thought of as painful, so we understand your trepidation if you face root canal treatment. Hopefully, understanding what a root canal is and what’s involved in the procedure can help ease your fears.
So, what is a root canal?
The quick and easy answer is a root canal is the pulp-filled cavity in the tooth’s root.
The soft pulp tissue is the innermost centre of the tooth and contains nerves and blood vessels that nourish the tooth. It extends from the centre of the tooth down into the roots and jawbone.
However, to confuse matters, a ‘root canal’ is also a term commonly used for a dental treatment to save a tooth from extraction – i.e. root canal treatment.
So, what is root canal treatment, and when might I need it?
Root canal treatment (also referred to as endodontic treatment) is carried out to save badly infected or damaged teeth.
The tooth may have become damaged or infected due to repeated dental work, injury, wear and tear, tooth decay, a cracked filling or gum disease.
Damage to dental pulp causes bacteria to multiply inside the tooth, leading to infection or an abscess at the end of the tooth’s root.
Dentists try to save a patient’s tooth for the simple reason that a natural tooth will always function better than an artificial tooth for biting and chewing. Loss of a tooth can also lead to a host of other dental problems.
Tooth replacement solutions such as a dental bridge or implant are more complex and costly than root canal treatment, so it’s always preferable to save a natural tooth whenever possible, and that starts with root canal therapy.
So, another answer to what is a root canal is that it’s a treatment that gets you out of pain and saves a tooth!
What are the signs that I may need root canal treatment?
Some of the tell-tale signs that you may need a root canal include:
- Chips or cracks in the enamel
- Severe pain when biting down or chewing
- Sore or swollen gums
- Lingering sensitivity to cold or hot after the sensation has been removed
- Darkening of the tooth
How does endodontic treatment work?
Because adult teeth can survive without the pulp, root canal treatment saves the tooth by removing the damaged or decayed material, cleaning the root canals, and sealing the space. Generally, root canal treatment and restoration of the crown spans over two or three appointments.
What happens during the root canal procedure?
- First, the dentist takes x-rays to determine the shape and depth of the tooth roots and whether the bone surrounding the tooth is infected.
- A local anaesthetic is given to the patient to numb the area around the tooth to ease any discomfort. Then a protective shield is placed around the tooth to prevent contamination from the bacteria in your saliva.
- The next part of the root canal procedure is for the dentist to drill an access hole through the top of the crown to remove any infected pulp. Depending on the tooth, there may be up to 4 root canals, all of which will be cleaned, flushed out, shaped and disinfected.
- A patient may have to attend a couple of appointments for the dentist to clean and shape the hole inside the tooth and place a sterile filling inside. Between visits, the dentist will seal the tooth with a temporary filling.
- Once the treatment has finished, the final stage of the root canal procedure is to fill the canal space with a rubbery material – gutta-percha. On occasions, the root canals may have a small support inserted inside them to strengthen the tooth.
At a later date, the dentist may cap the tooth with a dental crown.
Is root canal treatment painful?
Root canal treatment may feel more uncomfortable than a standard filling because it takes longer, but it should be relatively pain-free.
Don’t forget; root canal treatment is designed to alleviate pain, not cause it. If your case is particularly complex, we may refer you to an endodontist for the root canal procedure.
So now you know the answer to the question, what is a root canal there’s no need to be scared. You should understand that any pain you feel is from the infection and not the root canal treatment.
Root canal treatment eliminates pain and saves your tooth. It’s a win-win.
If you suspect you may need a root canal, don’t hesitate to contact the friendly, experienced team at Synergy Dental Group. We practice gentle dentistry and utilise the latest techniques and technologies for as pleasant an experience as possible. Call us today on (03) 7003 2185 or use our online booking service.