In the past, if you had a tooth with a diseased nerve, you would probably lose that tooth. Today, with a special dental procedure called root canal treatment, your tooth can be saved. Root canals are a relatively simple procedure involving one to three office visits. Best of all, having a root canal when necessary can save your tooth and your smile!
A tooth that’s in need of root canal treatment doesn’t always cause pain, though it can hurt – a lot. Intense toothache, pain when biting down, sensitivity to extremes of temperature, discoloration of the tooth or tenderness in the gum can be indicators that root canal treatment is required. If you feel any of these symptoms, get in touch with your dentist without delay as pain can often intensify if symptoms are untreated.
Endodontic ‘root canal’ treatment preserves the tooth when the soft tissue inside, becomes inflamed or infected. This is often caused by a cracked or broken tooth or by decay. Your dentist or endontologist (dental practitioner specializing in roots, nerves and interior of teeth) will identify what treatment is required after examining teeth, gums and structure of bones in the face and jaw. A dental x-ray may also be required to determine if root canal is required.
Because the dentist will have to identify exactly where the affected area is, ideally it’s best not to take over-the-counter pain medication before going to the dentist’s office. We know this is not always practical if the pain is intense. Where necessary, take the recommended dose of your usual pain medication, making a careful note of what you’ve consumed and when, in order that the dentist can properly ascertain the safe volume of anesthetic required to carry out treatment.
Treatment is usually completed within two visits to the office, though you can generally anticipate between 1-3 appointments, depending on the level of infection, or degree of decay. The tooth’s root canals are cleared thoroughly to remove affected tissue as well as the tooth’s nerve. Once completed, with good oral maintenance, root canal treatment will restore the tooth and can preserve it for a lifetime.
Following a detailed examination to determine root canal treatment is required, the tooth and surrounding gum tissue will be numbed with anesthetic. A dental dam is put in place to isolate the area, and an opening created in the top of the tooth. The dental dam prevents infected tissue reaching other parts of the mouth, and stops saliva from entering the interior of the tooth while treatment is being carried out. Once all of the infected pulp and nerve from within the tooth’s root is removed, and the area cleaned and medicated, the empty root canal is shaped to accommodate dental composite filling, called ‘gutta percha’, a rubber-like biocompatible material. After treatment is completed, a temporary filling is applied, to seal the tooth, ready for the next stage of treatment from your dentist.
Your dentist will advise which activities to avoid after receiving dental work. This will be determined based on the level of anesthesia required to perform your treatment. Patients often ask, ‘Can I drive after root canal treatment?’ This will vary from patient to patient, depending on the volume of anesthesia administered to complete your treatment. It’s usually possible to resume a normal level of activity and fulfill everyday tasks without issue, though it is always advisable to check with your dentist before operating machinery, driving, and carrying out work requiring a degree of judgment. Patients sometimes ask if it’s OK to go to the gym after a root canal. We recommend giving your body a chance to rest and recover from the procedure, especially if you experienced pain from infection before having your treatment. The tooth may feel sensitive and you may feel more aware of it, compared to neighboring other teeth, for a few days after your treatment is completed. This will settle quickly, and any discomfort will be eased with over-the-counter pain medication.
YRoot canal treatment has a reputation for being painful, however patients can be reassured that while symptoms creating the necessity of a root canal procedure can hurt, the procedure itself is unlikely to cause discomfort. Using the most advanced dental technologies and techniques, The Endodontic Group provides a relaxing environment, promoting comfort and confidence in your treatment, no matter how nervous you feel as a patient. Different anesthetic and relaxant options are available, and your dental practitioners will always strive to determine the best option for you. Your sense of wellbeing is of paramount importance; beyond achieving optimum oral health and great teeth, we want you to feel good about the process.
We know it’s perhaps a while since you ate if you went to the dentist’s office in pain, but be very careful when eating after receiving treatment. Recommended foods are those that are neither too hot nor too cold, and require minimal chewing. Soft fruits with no seeds, such as banana and mango, especially in a smoothie are good. Exercise particular care to avoid biting the inside of the mouth while anesthetic is wearing off.
Root canal treatment is the recommended treatment for saving a tooth. The alternatives are implant or prosthetic denture. Sometimes patients are concerned the process might have an adverse affect on their health; women often ask if it’s safe to have root canal while pregnant. Root canal treatment is a safe, recommended and often, necessary treatment, required to eradicate infection and prevent it from spreading. As with all dental and medical treatments, discuss your concerns prior to the commencement of any procedure, detailing current medications you are taking, as well as providing an overview of your general health and wellbeing.
For patients who experience heightened anxiety, we urge you to speak to your dentist before making an appointment, in order that they can prepare for your next visit, taking into account your particular fears and concerns. With careful planning, dental visits need not be a source of distress.