Endodontics (Root Canal Therapy)
What is root canal therapy?
Why do I need a root canal?
Root canal treatment becomes necessary when the nerve tissue inside the tooth starts to degenerate. If left untreated, the infected tooth pulp can lead to an abscess and ultimately cause harm to the jawbone. To prevent these complications and save the tooth, a root canal is recommended. This procedure helps maintain healthy tissue around the root of the tooth, free from inflammation. Several factors can lead to tooth inflammation and irritation, including deep decay, large fillings, tooth trauma, chips, or repeated dental work.
What are the symptoms or signs that a root canal is needed?
If you experience pain in your tooth or notice swollen and tender gums near the tooth, or if your tooth appears discoloured and is more sensitive to heat and cold, it may be an indication of inflamed and infected pulp inside the tooth. In such cases, your dentist may suggest a root canal procedure.
What are the causes of dental pulp or nerve damage?
Damage to the dental pulp can occur due to various reasons such as dental cavities, chipped teeth, cracked fillings, and tooth injuries. If left untreated, dental cavities can spread to the tooth pulp causing nerve damage. Similarly, cracked fillings can allow harmful bacteria and saliva to enter the root canal and infect the pulp. In some cases, even without external signs of damage, tooth injuries can cause damage to the pulp.
Why is root canal therapy necessary?
When the nerves inside the tooth pulp die, the tooth’s dentin and enamel lose their source of organic nutrients and moisture. This can result in toothache due to inflamed tissue around the tooth, and if left untreated, bacterial infection and inflammation can damage the bones around the teeth. If the damaged pulp is not treated, it can lead to tooth loosening and eventual extraction. Hence, root canal therapy is essential to preserve the tooth and protect the jawbone.
What does the root canal procedure involve?
The root canal procedure involves four main steps. Firstly, the dentist will examine the x-ray of the infected tooth and administer a local anaesthetic. The next step is to remove the inflamed nerve tissue through an opening in the crown of the tooth, and thoroughly clean the root canal to eliminate any debris or bacteria that may cause further infection or inflammation. In the second step, the dentist will seal off the cleaned root canal cavity to prevent any fluids or bacteria from entering. Next, the root canal is filled with a mixture of gutta-percha and adhesive cement. Finally, a crown is placed on the sealed tooth to allow it to function normally.
Risks Associated With Root Canal Therapy
After undergoing root canal therapy, it is common to experience some discomfort for several days following the procedure. Over-the-counter pain medication can be taken to alleviate this discomfort, but in more severe cases, the dentist may prescribe an antibiotic and stronger pain reliever to address any remaining infection.
It’s important to avoid chewing directly on the repaired tooth until the final restoration has been completed, as the tooth may crack. Delaying the final restoration can also increase the likelihood of reinfection, requiring the root canal therapy to be repeated.
While root canal therapy is generally a safe and effective treatment, there are potential complications that can arise. For instance, during the procedure, a shaping file could break and become lodged in the root canal, or the tooth root could fracture. Achieving a good seal can also be challenging, particularly if the shape of the root is irregular. In some cases, a hidden root or extra canal may be missed and require further treatment. If root canal therapy is unsuccessful, the dentist may discuss alternative options, such as repeating the treatment or extracting the infected tooth. However, it’s important to note that these complications are rare.