Root Canal is another dental procedure that sounds worse than it really is. With modern dental technology, this procedure is painless and can save a tooth from extraction or serious infection. The “Root Canal” is where the Pulp Chamber is located, which contains tissues and cells. Root Canal Therapy (Endodontic Therapy) is when the tissue in the canal of the tooth has become infected and/or is severely decayed and needs to be removed to prevent any further infection to the mouth.
We’ve all had those bothersome toothaches which only requires drilling out the cavity and adding a filing. It’s when this toothache becomes more severe and other underlying symptoms occurs and requires a second look for root canal infection. Remember, you are not a dentist so do NOT try to diagnose your ailment!
Sign and symptoms may include but are not limited to:
- Pain or swelling around the tooth and face
- Increased sensitivity to cold or hot liquid
- Darkening of the tooth
If you experience any of these symptoms, then see your dentist right away. After you explain your symptoms, the dentist will then run a series of tests to determine if root canal is needed. One of the easiest way for a dentist to determine the health of a tooth is with an X-ray. X-rays provide a comprehensive look at the tooth and gum, which cannot be observed with the naked eye, and gives the dentist all the information that is needed to make an informed decision.
What is the procedure for Root Canal Therapy?
The procedure is done in a dental office with local anesthesia. After the mouth is prepared, the dentist will drill a small hole from the top of the tooth down to the root. He will drill, clean out the infected and dead area all the way through to the end/bottom of the root canal. This is painless, but there is a lot of work involved as it is essential that all the infected debris is properly cleaned out. After the dentist feels the canal is free of the infection, he will then thoroughly disinfect the area with a mix of antibacterial solutions.
Since the canals will be uneven and rough, the dentist will insert a variety of sizes of a flexible and very small tool and smooth it out. This will guarantee the filler will settle properly occupying all the empty area. He will again clean and disinfect the area one last time to guarantee nothing is left further infection will not occur.
Gutta-percha, which is a type of moldable plastic, is then heated up and pushed into the void, so that it fills every area and is properly sealed. This material will only go into the root and not fill the whole cavity left behind. The rest of the cavity will be filled with a permanent or temporary material. Because the tooth loses much of its strength a temporary filling will be used in anticipation of a crown. The tooth will then be shaped to proper dimensions which will enable a permanent crown for the tooth. If there is no need for a crown, the tooth will be filled with a permanent material.
Is Root Canal Treatment always successful?
In 95% of cases, the treatment proves to be successful. The most common reason for a failed procedure is that the dentist or endodontist was not successful in complete removal of the infected area. This may occur because of the hard to reach position of the tooth, or that the dentist overlooked another infected canal in the tooth. A problem with the sealant and a broken or cracked tooth can cause bacteria to enter the tooth and start the infection all over again as well.
If after a few attempts, the procedure proves ineffective, another procedure will be tried to remedy the issue. The root-end resection or apicoectomy is when the endodontist enters the infected area through the gum and not the tooth. They will remove the infection and treat the area with antibacterial medication.
Are there side-effects of a successful Root Canal?
Any surgery has its share of side-effects and root canal therapy is not immune to post surgery issues. After the anesthesia wears off there can be some pain issues, which can be remedied by over the counter medication. If the pain is severe and continues, then you need to make an appointment with the doctor. Also swelling both inside and outside the mouth, an allergic reaction to the medication, and an uneven or uncomfortable bite can also be an issue after root canal surgery.
Are there alternatives to Root Canal?
Yes, there are alternatives to root canal therapy, although most of these are natural alternatives. Many of those who provide these procedures believe that dental root canal is unnecessary, and that there is a conspiracy between the dentists and pharmaceutical/medical equipment industry. The claim of 30,000,000 performed every year and most of them unnecessary is one claim made. But some mainstream beliefs are that a crown or filling would suffice instead of the expense of a root canal. The last alternative is tooth extraction which is usually done after all other options have been extinguished.
The alternative or holistic approach has a lot to do with prevention instead of the ability to rid the infected area in the tooth. No one would argue that a healthy diet/lifestyle has a lot to do with the onset of tooth decay and eventual infection. There is a long list of preventative measures, although most of it has to do with what you eat and drink, as well as keeping an overall healthy lifestyle. There are many books and article that describe what a healthy diet and lifestyle can provide, so if you are really interested, then pick one of these up and see what works for you.
Life after a Root Canal Therapy
After your root canal procedure is successful and months have passed, chances are that you will not have any more issues with that tooth. You will be able to chew and eat the foods you’ve always desired and forget that root canal therapy was ever performed. It’s essential that you see your dentist on a regular basis, as to prevent further issues with your other teeth, and to assess the progress of that specific tooth. As they say, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and in the case of the overall health of your teeth and gums, nothing can be truer!