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Root Canal Therapy

By: Garry Crystal - Updated: 6 Dec 2010 | comments*Discuss
Root Canal Therapy

Root canal therapy is a dental procedure that treats the inner portion of the teeth, namely the pulp tissue. A common misconception of root canal treatment is that it one of the more painful dental treatments, but in reality it is no more painful than a filling. Your dentist may be able to carry out the root canal procedure, but in some cases you may be referred to an endodontic department that specialises in this treatment.

The Inner Tooth

Although the outer area of the tooth is hard, the inner area is composed of a pulp chamber. The pulp chamber is a combination of blood vessels, soft tissue and nerves, with the roots and nerves running in small canals to the pulp chamber. If the pulp chamber becomes infected with bacteria due to periodontal disease, fractures or tooth decay, then the pulp can become seriously damaged and pain can occur. This is when root canal therapy may be advised by your dentist. The treatment will remove the infected tissue and the tooth will be saved from extraction.

Symptoms that Root Canal Therapy is Required

Only a dentist can determine if root canal therapy is required and he or she will usually determine this by x-ray, or by exposing the tooth nerve during examination. There may also be telltale lesions on the gums that act as drains for pus from the infected tooth. Because the infected tissue inside the tooth can die very quickly there may be no signs of pain at all. In other cases pain will be felt in the tooth, and there may also be swelling and tenderness of the gums. The symptoms will vary from individual to individual; this is why regular visits to the dentist are imperative in order to detect any changes in your teeth.

The Root Canal Procedure

Root canal therapy has garnered a reputation of being an extremely painful dental procedure but it should be no more painful than any other dental treatment. In many cases the tissue and nerve inside the tooth will be dead, so no pain can be felt. However, the treatment does still require the use of an anaesthetic in order to avoid any discomfort for the patient. Root canal is a complex treatment and consists of clearing all bacteria and infected debris from inside the tooth. During the process it is easier for the dentist if the infected area is numbed in order to keep the patient free from any pain. If the patient is calm and relaxed then the dentist will be able to do his or her job without worry.

The first step of the treatment is to place a rubber band around the infected tooth; this stops tooth saliva re-entering the tooth, and stops bacteria entering during the treatment.

The dentist will then use a drill to gain access to the pulp chamber. The hole will be drilled at the back of the front teeth or on the top part of molars. Once the dentist has gained access, the cleaning of bacteria, nerve tissue and toxins will be removed by means of small root canal files. These small files will be of varying lengths and are used to scrape out all infected material from inside the tooth.

Once all debris has been cleaned from the tooth, the dentist will then fill the area usually by means of a rubber compound. The final step is to place a filling over the hole that was drilled. The whole procedure for a single tooth should not take longer than 30 minutes to one hour.

Post Root Canal Therapy

After your root canal therapy you may feel sensitivity in the area for a few weeks but this should disappear. Chewing hard foods on the area straight after treatment is not recommended, just to be on the safe side.

Additional Dental Work

Depending on the severity of the decay to the tooth, there may be the need for small rods to be placed in the root canal as a means of strengthening the tooth. A dental crown may also be used to enhance the appearance of the tooth. The dead tooth may turn dark over time; this can be remedied by either a tooth whitening treatment or by the use of dental veneers.

Root canal therapy can give immediate relief to a painful tooth that has infected pulp tissue due to infection or decay. The procedure is intended as a way of retaining your tooth and also preventing bacteria from re-entering the tooth. After the treatment you should treat the tooth as normal, and with continual at home dental care, there should be no further problems with the tooth.

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