If you have been experiencing problems with a tooth and have been wondering if you need to undergo root canal treatment, visit Northtown Dental Centre. We offer root canal treatment at our St. Catharines centre. Book an appointment.
A root canal (also known as an endodontic treatment) is a treatment used to repair and save a tooth that is badly decayed or has become infected. During a root canal procedure, the nerve and pulp are removed, and the inside of the tooth and roots are cleaned, disinfected and sealed. This procedure allows the tooth to be maintained in the jaw for healthy function and aesthetics.
Why Would You Need Root Canal Treatment?
Root canal treatment is needed for two main reasons: infection or irreversible damage to the pulp. An untreated cavity is a common cause of pulp infection. The decay erodes the enamel and dentin of the tooth until it opens into the root canal system, allowing bacteria to infect the pulp. Infections inside teeth don’t respond to antibiotic treatment. The inflammation caused by the infection restricts the tooth’s blood supply, so antibiotics in the bloodstream can’t reach the infection very well. The reduced blood supply also limits the pulp’s ability to heal itself. The pulp also can become damaged from trauma, a fracture or extensive restorative work, such as several fillings placed over a period of time.
Sometimes, a common dental procedure can cause the pulp to become inflamed. For example, preparing a tooth for a crown sometimes leads to the need for root canal treatment. In many cases, when the pulp is inflamed, but not infected, it will heal and return to normal. Your dentist may want to monitor the tooth to see if this happens before doing root canal treatment. Sometimes, though, the pulp remains inflamed, which can cause pain and may lead to infection.
Once the pulp becomes infected, the infection can affect the bone around the tooth, causing an abscess to form. The goal of root canal treatment is to save the tooth by removing the infected or damaged pulp, treating any infection, and filling the empty canals with an inert material. If root canal treatment is not done, the tooth may have to be extracted. It is better to keep your natural teeth if at all possible. If a tooth is missing, neighbouring teeth can drift out of line and can be overstressed. Keeping your natural teeth also helps you to avoid more expensive and extensive treatments, such as implants or bridges.
If an infected or injured tooth that needs root canal treatment is ignored, not only can you lose the tooth, but also the infection can spread to other parts of your body. Having endodontic treatment on a tooth does not mean that you’ll need to have it pulled out in a few years. The reason for doing root canal treatment is often a large cavity. The tooth often is weakened, but if the tooth is covered with a crown after the root canal or, in some cases, restored with tooth-coloured composite filling material, the tooth can last the rest of your life.
Signs and Symptoms
If you have an infection of the pulp, you may not feel any pain at first. But if left untreated, the infection will cause pain and swelling. In some cases, an abscess will form. Eventually, the tooth may need to be extracted. Some indications that a tooth may need a root canal are:
A tooth that hurts significantly when you bite down on it, touch it or push on it
Sensitivity to heat
Sensitivity to cold that lasts longer than a couple of seconds
Swelling near the affected tooth
A discoloured tooth, with or without pain
A broken tooth
To determine whether your tooth needs root canal treatment, your dentist will place hot or cold substances against the tooth, feel surrounding tissues and gently tap on the tooth. He or she also will take X-rays. If the condition of the pulp isn’t clear from these tests, your dentist may use an electric pulp tester. This hand-held device sends a small electric current through the tooth and helps your dentist evaluate whether the pulp is alive. This test does not cause pain or a shock, but a tingling sensation that stops immediately when the tester is removed from the tooth. Caution: An electric pulp tester should not be used if you have a cardiac pacemaker or any other electronic life-support device.
Length of Treatment
Root canal treatment can be done in one or more visits, depending on the situation. An infected tooth will need several appointments to make sure that the infection is eliminated. Some teeth may be more difficult to treat because of the position of the tooth, because they have many and curved root canals that are difficult to locate, or for other reasons. An uncomplicated root canal treatment often can be completed in one visit. Once the root canal treatment is finished, you will need to see your general dentist to have the tooth restored with a crown or filling.
After Root Canal Treatment
Your tooth will be sore for a few days after the procedure, and your dentist will tell you to avoid chewing on the affected side. The worse the infection and inflammation was prior to root canal treatment, the sorer the tooth will be after treatment. You can take over-the-counter pain relievers to ease the discomfort.
Pain, or the Lack of It
In most cases, you will not experience any pain during the root canal procedure. Your dentist will completely numb your tooth and the surrounding area. If this doesn’t seem to be working, alert your dentist right away. Some people fear the anaesthetic injections more than the procedure itself, but numbing gels and modern injection systems have made injections virtually painless. Let your dentist know immediately and he or she can modify the technique to avoid repeating the pain. In addition to anaesthetic, you may receive sedation, such as nitrous oxide.