The mere mention of the word root canal by the dentist, makes people cringe with fear. But it is not so scary. Here’s what you need to know about root canal treatment. By the end of this article, you will see that it is a simple routine procedure performed by dentists all over the world.
What is root canal?
The root canal is a cavity at the root of the tooth, which is filled with pulp. The pulp is part of the tooth called root canal. The base of the tooth is a hollow segment of the tooth which contains blood vessels, nerve tissues and other cells. The dental procedure called root canal is in fact an endodontic therapy which means a treatment done inside the tooth.
Root canal treatment
A root canal treatment is suggested to patients after reviewing the pain and conditions of the concerned tooth. It is done to remove the affected tissues and bacteria from the canal to relieve pain. Because of improved technology for the treatment, it is done today with relatively minimum invasion in one or two sittings. This treatment is carried out in the pulp or the root canal, therefore the name given to it is root canal treatment.
Who needs root canal treatement?
Root canal is recommended when the infection in the tooth has reached deep down to the roots of the tooth. The pulp in the insides of the tooth can become infected because of various reasons, like a cracked tooth, injury to the tooth, or a cavity which was untreated, or even a loose filling. The increased infection seeps in the tooth making it vulnerable for extraction. In such a situation the dentist advises root canal treatment to save the tooth by clearing infection from the pulp and treating it with medicines so that infection does not grow again. The root canal treatment cleanses the pulp and repairs it, which pulp cannot do on its own, if it is injured or diseased, which can result in extraction of the tooth, because of the dead tissues. If the root canal treatment is not done, the bacteria may enter the jaw bone and infect it too leading to major course of treatment, because the infection can weaken and breakdown the bone tissues and causing the swelling of ligaments around the bone.
What are the steps required for root canal treatment?
The root canal therapy consists of three major steps. It used to take at least three sessions initially, but with advanced technology, now it is possible to complete the job in one or maximum two sessions.
Step 1: First of all, the dentist checks for the damage that has been caused by the infection. The first step consist of removing everything that is inside the root canal. Since metal pins are used to clean the cavity, the dentist gives an injection of anaesthesia on the area and dulls the nerves surrounding the affected tooth. With the local anaesthesia in place, the dentist will use a small dam made of rubber to isolate the affected tooth from other teeth and to keep it dry while work is on.
Step 2: The second step consists of using a small drill to create a tiny opening on the top of the tooth for the dentist to work through. This opening is to provide access to reach the insides of the tooth. Before filling the canal, the dentist cleanses the hollow area of the infectious pulp and all damaged tissues. After cleaning the area the dentist will shape the inside of the tooth and root. With special equipment he will flush the area with water to cleanse it completely.
After cleansing, he will apply antibacterial medicines to decontaminate the area with irrigation solutions. This step will put a stop to further bacterial growth in the future. After cleaning, the cavity is filled with a rubber like material or adhesive cement which will help seal the canals completely. The cleaning and filling the cavity makes the tooth dead to sensation of pain. The patient cannot feel any discomfort in the tooth because there are no infections and no nerve endings remaining in the tooth.
Step 3: In the third stage the dentist will have to fill and crown the tooth because the tooth has become vulnerable now due to so much work done inside it. The tooth has lost its pulp and for nourishment it has to look for ligaments that attach the tooth to the bone. This arrangement is fine for some time but eventually it makes the tooth more brittle. To save the tooth for longer duration, the tooth needs the protection of a filling and a crown. The dentist will fill the cavity with rubber like material and close the opening with a temporary filling. A permanent crown will be fitted eventually, may be after a few weeks. After the crown on top of the tooth is placed the treatment is complete. The patient has to desist from chewing or biting with the treated tooth, till the tooth is fully protected with a crown and a filling.
Usually this treatment can be done in one sitting nowadays, but depending on the patient, and the amount of damage due to large infections, the dentist may need to work for more than one session.
Is the root canal treatment painful?
The pain actually comes from the infection in and around the tooth. Once the treatment begins, the pain will vanish. The dental procedure of removing damaged pulp from the tooth will begin with local anaesthesia and after taking the anaesthesia, there will be no pain. Some tenderness and little discomfort is normal because so many tiny instruments were used on the dental work. But it is temporary and will go away with some medication prescribed by your dentist. An antibiotic may be prescribed to curb infections around the tooth.
Is it expensive?
The costs differ from dentist to dentist and city to city. But having root canal treatment done to save the tooth is any time cost effective rather than removing the tooth.