If you have heard about root canal treatment, your reflexive response to the idea is probably to wince, as it sounds on the face of it to be invasive, painful and unpleasant all around. In truth, while none of us would undergo the treatment unless it was entirely necessary, the truth of the matter is that root canal therapy can be a lot less unpleasant than you imagine it to be – and it can save you a lot of pain and suffering in the future.
Let’s first get the absolute truth on what root canal therapy is. If you were to go to a dentist today to have the treatment, they would be focused on carrying out a repair inside the tooth. That’s all that root canal means; the root of your tooth attaches the tooth itself to the jawbone, and the area around that root is the root canal. If you are having therapy in the area, then the likelihood is that you have suffered an infection, and a dentist needs to clear it out.
If you have never had an infection in the tooth or gum before, then let’s be clear about one thing above all – tooth and gum infections are painful. They can be so distressing as to make everyday life unbearable, and often have sharp spikes of pain that break through any pain killing medication you can use. Root canal therapy is designed to cure the infection, and end the pain – and it is highly effective in doing so.
Your dentist will go about root canal therapy in what is usually a three-step process. The steps are outlined below, and at the end of the treatment you will walk out of the office feeling much more comfortable.
- Cleaning: First of all, the dentist cleans out the root canal. An infected tooth may well contain damaged and dead root pulp. Having first placed the patient under local anesthetic, the dentist drills a small access hole in the tooth, and removes the damaged pulp matter using special files that are designed for this kind of close work. When this is cleared out, the dentist moves on to the job of filling the root canal.
- Filling: With the dead matter removed, the dentist must then decontaminate the inside of the tooth. Using a root irrigation solution and small tools, this stage of root canal therapy involves a full cleanout to ensure that there are no bacteria and no infection sources left behind. The dentist then fills the tooth with a rubber-like solution which solidifies inside the tooth. The root canal is then sealed off with dental cement, and the tooth is, to all intents and purposes, dead.
- Crowning: Because the tooth is now dead, the outer structure is not going to receive the nutrients that the root was responsible for delivering and over time it is simply going to become more fragile and brittle. Although it will gain some nutrients from the ligament that anchors it to the bone, it will need more than that to be a functional tooth, so the dentist places a crown over the tooth and fits it to the gum with dental cement.
Speak to your dentist about what root canal therapy might entail for you. Some cases involve a single appointment, while others might be more complicated and require further investigation, but one thing for certain is that the treatment can save you a lot of pain and distress in the long term.