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Everything You Need to Know About Your Root Canal Treatment
For patients who grew up afraid of the dentist, there’s nothing that sounds scarier than a root canal. Root canal treatments have earned quite a bad rep — and perhaps unfairly so — because they treat teeth that are badly decayed or infected.
By the time someone needs a root canal treatment in Toronto, the chances are they’re already experiencing intense pain or discomfort, which can be exacerbated by post-op recovery. But is this really the case?
Simply, root canals are smile-saving treatments. Like any dental procedure, a root canal is designed to restore your strong and healthy teeth. A root canal is practically one last stop before a tooth extraction: the last resort when infected or decayed teeth are past other less invasive treatments. Instead, a root canal saves these infected teeth from total decay and extraction, allowing you to keep them and your healthy smile.
Why It’s Called a Root Canal and What It Does
A root canal treatment is recommended for badly decayed or infected teeth, wherein the nerves and pulps have become irritated and inflamed. These occur due to severe tooth decay, repeated dental procedures, large fillings, and cracks or chips in the tooth after trauma to the face.
A root canal is required to prevent decay or infection from causing an abscess — a pus-filled pocket — to develop. When this happens, the damage has spread past the ends of the roots of a tooth and can cause serious harm.
How a Root Canal is Done
This treatment involves cleaning the infected pulp, then removing the damaged nerve tissue to prevent bacteria from multiplying within the chamber. Once complete, the area is sealed to avoid further infection and prevent an abscess from forming. It also preserves the remaining healthy tissue surrounding the affected tooth.
While root canals involve removing the infected nerve, this doesn’t reduce quality of life. The nerves in teeth do not directly impact their health and function; these are only sensory (i.e. detect hot or cold food and drink).
What a Root Canal Treatment Prevents
A root canal also prevents swelling that can spread to the other parts of the mouth and the face, neck, and head. When untreated, this infection can also result in bone loss at the tip of the tooth’s root. It can also cause drainage problems that cause a hole to form on the side of the tooth and extend into the gums or even through the cheek and skin.
Diagnosing Severe Tooth Decay and Recommending a Root Canal Treatment
No dentist will recommend a root canal lightly. Unlike routine procedures like cleaning and fillings, root canal treatments are saved for extreme cases, like severe tooth decay and infections that have gone untreated and now affect the root of a tooth.
If your dentist suspects that you need a root canal treatment, they will first take an x-ray to confirm signs of infection or tooth decay, particularly in the roots of the teeth and surrounding bone.
For difficult cases, your dentist may recommend seeing an endodontist. An endodontist is a dentist who specializes in treating diseases and injuries to the dental pulp or the nerves in teeth. Otherwise, they can complete your root canal treatment in one to two visits.
What happens during a root canal treatment?
To start, your dentist will use a local anesthetic to numb the area surrounding the affected tooth and help you relax. For particularly anxious patients, dentists may recommend sedation to ensure that the treatment is completed correctly and safely. But since the nerve is dead — meaning, there is no sensation in the area — you might not need anesthesia after all.
Once the anesthetic is applied, your dentist will place a rubber dam — a sheet of rubber — around the tooth. That keeps the area dry and free of saliva throughout the root canal treatment.
2. Removing the infected pulp
The core of the root canal treatment starts with drilling access into the tooth, which allows your dentist to remove the infected pulp, decayed nerve tissue, and bacteria. Your dentist will then clean the area using a series of root canal files. These files are placed in the access hole, which your dentist will work down into the full length of the tooth to scrape and scrub the root. They will spray water or sodium hypochlorite in the area to flush away any debris.
3. Cleaning and sealing
After cleaning out the infected pulp, your dentist will proceed to seal the tooth. Depending on your case, your dentist may choose to wait up to a week before sealing the tooth. This happens if there is an infection that requires medication. They will apply a temporary filling in the exterior hole to keep saliva and food particles out of the treatment area in the interim.
Otherwise, your dentist can seal the tooth immediately afterwards. They will fill the tooth’s interior using a sealer paste and gutta-percha, a rubber compound, to close the access hole drilled at the start of your root canal treatment.
4. Further restoration
At the end of your root canal treatment, your dentist will restore the treated tooth to fill in the area where the infected or decayed pulp was removed. A filling, like a crown, crown and post, or other restoration is used to protect the treated area and prevent an already damaged and weakened tooth from breaking. The filling restores your tooth to full function and improves its appearance.
Root Canal Recovery
Root canal treatments are renowned for their extremely high success rates. At 95% success, many teeth restored with a root canal last a lifetime. Most patients resume their routine once the numbness wears off. In the next few days, it’s normal to experience some sensitivity due to tissue inflammation, which can be eased with painkillers.
While rare, it’s essential to watch out for complications. New infections may occur if there are more root canals in a tooth than anticipated, leaving at least one uncleaned.
Undetected cracks in the root of a tooth, problems with the restoration, and breakdown of the inner sealing can cause bacteria to enter and recontaminate the area. When these occur, your dentist may recommend surgery, like a root-end resection, to relieve the inflammation and save the tooth.
Once a permanent filling is placed, you can chew confidently, knowing that the once-fragile tooth has now been restored to full function. Just remember — a root canal treatment becomes necessary due to severe tooth decay or infection. There’s no substitute for oral hygiene basics: brush and floss regularly, and visit your dentist for check-ups and cleanings to prevent these problems from recurring.
To learn more about getting a root canal treatment, call Bloor West Smiles Dental at 647-691-8363, or contact us here.
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