Root Canal Therapy – A Step By Step Guide
Having healthy teeth is more important than you might realise. It is fundamental to your overall health and quality of life, affecting your ability to eat, speak and socialise. Root canal therapy is a dental procedure that helps millions of Australians enjoy their natural teeth for a lot longer.
Root canal treatment saves teeth that are affected by decay or an injury and might otherwise need to be extracted. During the dental procedure, the tooth’s infected or damaged pulp is replaced with a filling. In Australia, root canal therapy is one of the most common procedures performed by dental specialists. Yet, there are a number of misconceptions about root canal treatments that can be misleading.
To break the stigma and calm your nerves, we’ve created a comprehensive guide on root canal treatments. In today’s post, we’ll discuss the following:
- What are Root Canals?
- Benefits of Root Canal Therapy
- Reasons to Get a Root Canal Treatment
- What Happens If You Don’t Get Your Root Canal Treated?
- The Root Canal Procedure Explained Step by Step
- Root Canal Aftercare Instructions
- Frequently Asked Questions
Learn everything you need to know about root canal therapy and how it can save your smile too!
What are Root Canals?
Root canal treatments are designed to replace infected root canal tissue, preventing reinfection of the gum and saving the natural tooth. To understand the treatment, it helps to know something about the basic anatomy of the tooth.
Your teeth are made up of several layers: There is the white enamel you see when you smile at yourself in the mirror. Underneath the enamel follows a harder layer called the dentin. Below the dentin is a soft tissue called the pulp. It contains blood vessels, connective tissue and nerves and extends from the crown of the tooth to the tip of the roots. There, it connects to the tissues surrounding the root.
The pulp plays a vital role during a tooth’s growth and development. However, once a tooth is fully mature it can survive without the pulp, as the tooth continues to be nourished by the tissues surrounding it.
If bacteria get into the tooth’s pulp through cavities or cracks in the tooth, an abscess can build and cause pain and swelling. An abscess can be seen on a dental x-ray or in some cases, may be visible as swelling in the gum.
Common causes for root canal problems
- Untreated decay
- Trauma to the tooth
- Bruxism (teeth grinding)
- Cracks in your teeth
- Gum disease
- A filling that has decay underneath it
If a tooth becomes infected, injured or the nerve has died, root canal therapy is often the only remedy. Root canal therapy gives your dentist the option to save the tooth, rather than having to remove it.
Did you know? The study, prevention, treatment, and diagnosis of ailments to the tooth nerves and pulp are called “endodontics”. Root canals are usually performed by a dentist or a specialised endodontist. Root canal therapy is therefore also called endodontic treatment.
What are the Benefits of Root Canal Treatments
Not so long ago tooth extraction was the only treatment form for badly damaged teeth and gums. A lot has changed since then. Nowadays, modern dentistry is able to save your teeth in a pain-free procedure, with the help of local anesthetics.
Thanks to scientific evidence and the technological advancements made over the past decades, there is really nothing to be worried about if you’re in need of a root canal treatment. As a matter of fact, the procedure can be as quick and painless as having a filling placed. 95 per cent of patients undergoing root canal therapy have a fully functional tooth after therapy. A tooth that without the treatment, would have caused a lot of trouble.
Saving your natural tooth has many advantages, including:
- Maintaining normal biting force and sensation
- Being able to speak and chew normally
- Keeping a natural appearance
- Protecting surrounding teeth from excessive strain
- Preventing other teeth from drifting
Reasons to Get a Root Canal Treatment
Whilst some infections can be surprisingly painless, they may spread and affect surrounding tissues, causing more damage that can lead to swelling and pain. Ignoring the issue can have dramatic consequences.
In 2017, about 70,200 hospitalisations of Australians on the base of dental conditions may have been prevented with earlier treatment. A report issued by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare indicates that Australians aged between 15 and 34, have on average 4.5 decayed, missing or filled teeth.
What happens if you don’t get your root canal treated?
An untreated root canal will only get worse over time. If left untreated, infection and swelling can spread and cause serious health problems. Dental infections can quite possibly even spread to vital organs. Therefore, we highly recommend you don’t delay your visit to the dentist.
The risks of not getting root canal therapy may include:
- Spreading infections
- Severe and worsening pain
- Bleeding and swelling of the gum
- Possible loss of bone material, tissue and the tooth
- The cost may increase the longer you wait
Root Canal: Common Signs to Look Out for
Some signs of a tooth needing a root canal treatment include pain when chewing, a pimple on the gum next to the tooth, a chip or crack in the tooth, sensitivity to hot, cold or both, or darkening of the tooth.
Watch out for the following indicators:
- Toothache, spontaneous or triggered by chewing
- Sore and tender gums
- Darkening of the gums
- Facial swelling
- Intense or prolonged sensitivity to hot or cold drinks and foods
What Does a Root Canal Treatment at Admire Dentistry Look Like?
Depending on your tooth and its complexity, a root canal can be completed with us, your general dentist or, you may need to be referred to a specialised endodontist who is able to treat complicated cases. The difficulty of dental treatments depends on a variety of factors including how large the root canals are, how many canals are present and how much of the natural tooth remains intact.
The treatment itself can take one to two visits to your dentist or endodontist. Usually, you will spend up to two hours in the chair at a time.
Here’s what to expect during a root canal treatment:
1. Your dentist will start off by taking an x-ray of the tooth and root to determine the extent of infection and damage. The X-ray is the most critical part of the diagnosis and informs your dentist of the extent of dental work required. Then, local anaesthesia is applied to numb the area around the affected tooth to avoid any discomfort.
2. As your tooth and gum are numbing, a rubber dam will be placed around the tooth being treated. This helps to protect your tooth from bacteria in your saliva while the dentist performs the root canal treatment. It’s very important the tooth remains as clean as possible.
3. Next, a small opening will be drilled into the tooth to reach the root canal system. Through that small hole, the pulp, decayed nerve and any debris will be removed using very fine, specialised instruments. Once the tooth’s root canal system has been cleaned up and scrubbed, it will be filled with a special material and sealed from the top.
4. Complete restoration is the last step in a root canal treatment. It usually involves the placement of a crown or post, to restore the strength and function of the tooth. If your tooth was damaged from decay or cracks prior to root canal therapy, this may be the best option to help maintain your root canal treated tooth for as long as possible.
Root Canal Aftercare Instructions: The Do’s And Don’ts
Since root canal procedures affect the structure of the tooth, you have to be particularly
careful and follow a few important rules. Any tenderness and swelling following root canal treatment is possible but should gradually subside. If there is no improvement, call your dentist and arrange for a follow-up appointment. The full recovery of dental function after a root canal treatment can last between a few days and a few weeks.
Here are a few tips on root canal therapy aftercare:
- Make smart food and drink choices. Local anesthesia will last about two hours. Right after the treatment, you should, therefore, avoid eating and drinking. We highly recommend sticking to soft foods where possible during your root canal treatment and reducing the amount of sugary foods and drinks you consume. It is very important not to chew anything hard on the tooth being treated as it can be brittle and will not return to its full strength until after the crown is placed at the end of the treatment.
- Be gentle on your teeth. Patients should always maintain good oral hygiene by brushing twice and flossing every day while taking care to be gentle and clean the teeth without aggravating them. Take special care around the tooth that received the recent root canal treatment. Your dentist may show you different flossing techniques around the treated teeth to help clean the area properly.
- Managing pain and swelling post-treatment. If your tooth bothers you immediately after the procedure, you may choose to treat the discomfort with non-prescription pain relievers as needed.
- Do not smoke. Smoking may negatively affect the healing process. You should avoid smoking for at least 48 hours after the treatment.
Having a root canal treatment does not mean that your tooth is immune to future damage. It is unfortunately still susceptible to tooth decay or future fracture. As with all your teeth, regular check-ups and optimal home care is important for tooth longevity.
Root Canal Procedure – Frequently Asked Questions
1. How much does a root canal treatment cost?
The cost of root canal treatments may vary depending on the complexity of the problem and which tooth is affected. Endodontic treatment and appropriate restoration are covered by some private health care insurances. Check with your insurance provider to find out if and to what extent you are covered.
2. Are there any risks involved in root canal treatments?
Complications are a risk of every surgery. Every root canal procedure is performed in an effort to save your tooth. If the damage is however too deep or the remaining structure to frail, the loss of the tooth may not be avoidable.
Other risks include the development of an abscess at the root of the tooth if some of the infected material remains or a crack in the root goes undetected. This can lead to bacterial growth and make further treatment necessary.
If you’re worried about the prospect of having a root canal treatment, talk to your dentist about having an extraction instead. It is the only viable alternative and in most cases, includes placing a denture or implant in place of the damaged tooth.
3. Can I go to work or school after getting a root canal treatment?
A root canal treatment is a normal restorative procedure – just like getting a filling. There is no reason why you shouldn’t be able to attend school or work right after receiving root canal therapy. Although you will be numb for about 2 hours following the procedure, most patients are back in school or at work directly following the treatment.
4. Will it hurt?
There is no need to be nervous about an upcoming root canal procedure. Since you will receive a local anesthetic, the treatment isn’t any more painful than having a wisdom tooth removed or receiving a regular filling. However, you may experience mild soreness and discomfort after the procedure, which can last for a few days.
Do you have questions about dental pain, root canal therapy or other dental work? Our dedicated Admire Dentistry team offers comprehensive dental treatment in a trusting, gentle and comfortable environment. Get in touch with us today or book your appointment online. We’re looking forward to meeting you!