What Do You Really Know About Root Canal Treatment?

Endodontic treatment can save an infected tooth and here’s why you shouldn’t worry about it

Before we take a look at what a root canal treatment entails, let us address the elephant in the room. Root canal treatment has often been used as a benchmark to measure pain, and nearly always at the top end of the scale.

So, how did this come about and how true is it? We know that many patients possibly feel this way about the procedure, so let us take a look at this particular myth.

Whilst it is true that a root canal procedure is an invasive one, the fact is that it should cause you no more discomfort than most invasive dental treatments. As with others, it will be performed using a local anaesthetic to minimise any discomfort and you really should not experience any pain.

Historical legacy

If this is the case, then why does it have the reputation that it has? Whilst nobody can be 100% sure, it does appear that it may have come from a time when x-rays were not in common use. Without an x-ray, there was a risk that the dentist could drill into an abscess. We are sure that you can imagine how painful that would have been, especially with less effective local anaesthetics than we have today. Although this must have been incredibly painful, there is no reason why this should happen today. X-rays are routinely taken at the Cygnet Dental Practice before we start a root canal procedure. These are used not only to diagnose the need for this treatment, but also to check for the presence of any abscesses. If any are found, the abscess will be treated before the root canal procedure can take place.

Once we are sure that there are no abscesses, your treatment can start. As a powerful local anaesthetic is used, you shouldn’t feel any discomfort during the treatment although you may experience some sensations, such as vibration, when we access the tooth.

The procedure

So, what do we actually do when we perform a root canal treatment?

Initially, we need to access the top section of the affected tooth. This enables the dentist to reach the infected root canals within it. The canals contain a soft pulp material that contain very small blood vessels as well as the nerves of your teeth. Once this becomes infected, it needs to be removed. After this has been done, the dentist will give the root canals a thorough cleaning to ensure that any remaining infection is cleared.

The next step is to fill the canals. Whilst an amalgam or composite filling might be used for a regular filling, a special type of material, known as gutta percha, is used. This is done due to its excellent sealing properties which helps to minimise the risk of any future reinfection.

Once the canals have been filled and sealed, you will be left with a tooth that has been restored but which is likely to be in a weakened state due to the treatment it has just received. To counteract this, a dental crown is usually added to the tooth. This also makes it look more natural as well as providing the additional strength needed for daily use.

How strong is a treated tooth?

A tooth that has had root canal therapy should be strong enough for you to use for eating. There is a caveat though. Because the nerves of the tooth have been removed with the infected soft pulp, you will have no sensation left in that tooth. This means that it is harder to recognise how much pressure you are applying to it when you are eating. This shouldn’t be a problem for softer foods, but anything that requires a significant amount of pressure to bite into could potentially put the tooth at risk.

We recommend that you restrict your diet to softer foods initially so that you can become accustomed to your newly restored tooth. You will be able to add harder foods once you have reached this stage but we recommend that you avoid using the treated tooth when eating harder foods. Providing that you do this and remember to keep the tooth clean, including the surrounding gums, your restored tooth can last in the region of ten years or more.

We know that some of you still might not be convinced about the ‘pain’ factor of this treatment and our Wickford dental team are always happy to talk through any treatment with you to help you understand and ask any questions that you might have. We feel that a combination of this and the friendliness and experience of our local team will help you to have a relaxed visit when you have an appointment at the Cygnet Dental Practice.

If you would like an appointment to see a dentist, you can use the form on our website or simply give us a call on 01268 733078. We look forward to helping you!