Frequently asked questions about root canal treatment
A very infected tooth or a tooth affected by decay can sometimes be saved through procedures used by both the general dentist and the root canal specialist, called endodontist. Extraction is indeed the last method we resort to.
Among elements indicating the need for root canal treatment we can indicate:
1. Spontaneous pain or throbbing while biting.
2. Sensitivity to hot and cold food products.
3. Severe decay or an injury that creates an abscess (infection) of the bone.
Losing a tooth can precipitate loss of more teeth. Saving the tooth maintains space, prevents other teeth from moving, and eliminates the need of a bridge or implant and crown. Although apparently more expensive, it is actually quite cost effective treatment.
A root canal treatment is not as bad as it seems and in our dental clinic, we try to make it as pleasant as possible. Here is how it works. Root canal treatment consists of the removal of the infected or irritated nerve tissue that is inside the root of the tooth. This infected tissue can cause an eventual abscess.
The first step in a root canal treatment is to get access to the nerve. This is accomplished by performing a small access opening in the upper part of the tooth. This procedure will be done under a local anesthetic. The length of the root canal is determined with a special device and the infected tissue is removed.
Generally, during the same visit, the canal where the nerve is located will be cleaned and prepared to accept a special material for root canal filling. This filling procedure will probably be completed only during your next visit. The number of appointments necessary to complete the root canal treatment will depend on several factors including the number of nerves in the tooth, the infected state of the nerve and the complexity of the procedure. The final step of the procedure will be the closing of the root canal with a sterile, plastic material, called gutta percha. This is performed to prevent possible future infection.
Afterwards, the tooth will possibly need a corono-radicular device and a crown in order to re-establish the initial form and function. This decision will be based on several additional factors. If treated on time, root canal therapy will cause no discomfort at all.
According to popular beliefs, by removing the nerve, the tooth “dies”. This is not true. The tooth is active and functioning because it is based, as source of blood and nerve supply, on surrounding tissues that maintain its place on the jaw bone. The tooth will lose its sensitivity to hot, cold or sweets but will respond to bite pressures etc. Properly treated, the tooth should last as long as other teeth and can even be used as an anchor tooth for a partial denture or cemented bridge.
Sometimes when there has been a long-lasting infection or abscess, you may feel a mild sensitivity associated with the first or second root canal treatment visit. In case this happens, you will be given specific instructions to follow in order to minimize the discomfort. When an infection is present, it may be necessary to administer an antibiotic. If pain should continue, analgesics may be prescribed. In either case, do not hesitate to call the dental clinic if either of these problems should arise.