Individuals who discover they require root canal treatment during an appointment with a dental professional often experience the same fear of what is notoriously regarded as a daunting and painful procedure. Root Canal Treatment is sometimes referred to as "Endodontic Treatment".
A high number of patients view this course of action as a dentist’s last resort for saving a tooth that has become rotten over time. For this reason, a negative stigma has been associated to the procedure that is often largely exaggerated and - in some cases - completely untrue.
What is root canal treatment?
This process is carried out when the inner pulp of a tooth needs to be removed through the root canal. In most cases, this takes place when a tooth has become infected to prevent the ailment spreading to other areas of the mouth and face, while ultimately leading to a growth of a painful abscess.
Why does the pulp get infected?
Found in the centre of the tooth, this substance is the cluster of nerve endings and blood vessels that provide the necessary nutrients to keep the tooth healthy. For this reason, placing this area in harm’s way constitutes a serious threat to the overall wellbeing of the area.
In order for the pulp to become infected, severe tooth decay has to work its way through the two protective layers of enamel and dentin. During this process, the ailment forms due to plaque that has been able to build up on teeth over a long period of time.
This problem is caused by the reaction of plaque with sugars - often found in carbohydrates in the diet - to form acid, which goes on to erode the protective parts of the teeth and attack surrounding gum tissue.
Individuals who fail to attend regular appointments with a dental professional may find they are at a higher risk of developing a vast array of oral health issues, usually caused by the creation of cavities on the teeth, which are then able to rot through to the pulp.
How can infection damage my tooth?
A tooth can be placed in significant danger straight from the onset of an infection. If the case is monitored and isolated early enough, it can be removed without damaging the pulp and requiring root canal treatment. Following this, a specialist will fill the cavity and the tooth is once again free from issues.
In cases where the pulp is badly infected, the substance may need to be removed. This is carried out to protect the tooth from further infection.
What are the symptoms of infection?
Individuals who are suffering from this ailment tend to feel a deep pain that refuses to go away. Additionally, increased sensitivity to hot and cold substances is also a tell-tale sign.
This type of toothache tends to increase in intensity when it is left untreated due to the added pressure placed on the nerve endings within the tooth causing a throbbing sensation.
Infections that are left to develop within the pulp often progress into an abscess, which can lead to the discomfort becoming worse over time, while further exerting more force into the tooth.
As with this type of problem in other areas of the body, patients may find they feel feverish and experience a higher temperature than normal.
What does the treatment involve?
During this procedure, a dental professional will remove the pulp while still preserving the structure of the tooth.
Usually performed under local anaesthetic, root canal treatment often requires a number of visits to the dentist’s office. The length of this course of action is thought to be among the reasons patients dread the thought of it.
When this is carried out, a dentist will drill into the tooth so the infection is revealed. Following this, the pulp and ailment are scraped away together through the root canal using a special device.
Depending on the severity of the issue, this process may need to be carried out on another occasion and through alternate tunnels to ensure the problem is completely eradicated and the tooth is protected from further damage.
Are there any complications?
Despite the negative stigma surrounding this proves, there are very rarely any significant complications associated with the treatment. Those patients who go into the clinic expecting the worst often find it feels very similar to more straightforward types of dental work, such as a filling or a crown.
Most of the discomfort is often experienced after the treatment, when the teeth and mouth can be sore for a number of days.
Removing the pulp from the inner area of the tooth means it has been cut off from its essential nutrients and blood supply, so it is essentially dead. But, the procedure will effectively preserve the pearly white to ensure the rest of the area is not damaged.
When the substance has been removed, a neutral material called Gutta Percha is used to replace it. Therefore, the tooth is still rooted into the jawbone and the infection is unable to return.
During the process, the drilling carried out to reach the pulp can affect the strength and shape of the tooth, while the infection may have affected the outside, so a dentist will usually recommend the attachment of a crown that will protect the surface and improve the bite.
Are there any alternatives?
The only real alternative to undergoing root canal treatment is a Tooth Extraction. This is due to the fact the ailment has reached an advanced stage that closes off a number of options that may have been available in less severe cases.
One of the main factors to consider is the importance of overall oral health in preventing the onset of such issues to begin with. For this reason, it is vital to visit a dental professional on a regular basis for a check-up, because their expertise is important for monitoring the early stages of similar problems.
The majority of dentists will in fact advise against a tooth extraction as an alternative to root canal treatment to ensure the natural bite is preserved for as long as possible.
Keeping this stability in place can prevent further complications in the long-term, so most specialists will recommend as few removals as possible.
The price of Root Canal Treatment can vary depending on the type of treatment that is required.