When the insides of a tooth become infected, root therapy can potentially save it
Mention the words ‘root canal’ to most patients and you can often see the concern in their eyes. For much too long, this particular treatment has been deemed to be the ‘worst’ dental treatment that there is, but really there is nothing to fear.
Today we will take a look at why these concerns may have arisen and explain the procedure in a little more detail so that our Woking patients understand more about it.
As always, the AJ Dental Group in Woking believes that preventative care is the best approach and we encourage patients to not only look after their teeth well at home, but make sure that they are seen regularly by both a dentist and a dental hygienist. Even with the best will in the world though, problems can and do still occur.
Why you might need a root canal procedure
This procedure is only necessary when the ‘pulp’ in the root canals of the teeth become infected. These canals are stored at the very heart of the tooth, beneath both the enamel and the dentin layer. There are many opportunities to prevent infections before it reaches this stage and is one of the many reasons to make sure that you see a dentist regularly.
Infections of this area can occur when decay starts to advance, but could also occur following a blow to the tooth if a crack develops. This could allow bacteria into the area which then infects the pulp. Included in the pulp are tiny blood vessels and nerves and this is the reason that a root canal infection is likely to cause you significant pain.
Why you shouldn’t fear the treatment
Root canal treatment, whilst quite complex, is a general dental treatment that is commonly carried out, and our experienced team will make every effort to make you as comfortable as we can during it. As with all invasive procedures, the area will be fully numbed before we start and there is no reason that you should feel any significant pain. Like other invasive procedures though, some slight discomfort might be felt.
Although no one seems to know for sure why this particular procedure has gained its reputation for pain, the general belief is that it is probably from a time before x-rays were commonly used. Because of this, where an abscess had formed, there would be a possibility that the drill would come into contact with it. We probably don’t need to tell you how painful that would be! Patients of the AJ Dental Group need have no concerns about this however, as X rays are routinely taken prior to a root canal procedure and any abscesses that are detected will be treated before you have the treatment.
What happens during a root canal procedure?
The first stage of this procedure is the examination and x-rays, as mentioned above. Where no abscesses are found, the treatment can start immediately. Where they are found, they will be treated and the procedure delayed until we are clear to proceed.
A local anaesthetic is then given via an injection into the area to be treated. The dentist will then remove part of the top section of the tooth so that they have access to the infected canals. The next step is to clean the canals and remove any infection. This is done firstly through suction, removing the majority of infected pulp. We will then manually remove the rest of it before cleaning the hollow canals thoroughly to remove any remaining bacteria. This reduces any possible risk of re-infection.
We then have to fill the now hollow canals and this is done using a type of filling that is predominantly only used for this purpose. It is called Gutta Percha and is used due to its excellent sealing properties.
Although it would now be possible to leave the tooth as it is, this would leave it in quite weak condition and there is every chance that the tooth would soon fracture with regular use. To significantly improve the strength of the treated tooth, a crown will usually be attached to the top of the tooth, in effect completely replacing the top section. The procedure is now complete.
Although the tooth will now be suitable for daily use, it is important that you take good care of it. One ‘problem’ with the tooth is that, with all of the nerves removed, it has no sensation. This means that it is very easy to apply too much pressure when you are eating something hard. This, and the fact that it will not be quite as strong as a healthy natural tooth, means that the risk of fractures are still slightly greater. Accordingly, it is best to take care when biting or chewing harder foods.
Of course you will still need to clean the tooth as you would with all of your other teeth. The underlying tooth which supports the crown is still be subject to decay and gum disease can still occur too.
As we mentioned earlier, regular diligent care at home, checkups and any early preventative treatment as required, should mean that root canal treatment is unlikely. So please make sure that you have an appointment booked with us, and if not, you can make one by calling our Parkside Woking dental surgery on 01483 766355.