One of the reasons for being afraid of going to the dentist, especially if you have a painful toothache, is that you think you will get off the dentist’s chair with one less tooth in your mouth. Fortunately, tooth extraction is not favoured anymore. There are other treatments available to restore a painful and badly infected tooth that does not involve tooth loss. The main one is called root canal treatment, which is intended to repair a damaged tooth without removing it.
When a root canal is performed
This procedure is often recommended if the pulp, the soft tissue found inside your tooth which includes blood vessels, becomes infected. This can happen for a number of reasons including:
- the presence of a deep cavity;
- a number of repairs performed on the tooth that have disturbed the tissue;
- damage to the tooth caused by an accident.
If this damage is not treated quickly enough the tissues surrounding the tooth’s root may become infected. When this takes place, you will typically feel pain and the presence of a swelling. An abscess could form in the tooth and spread to the surrounding bone at the end of the tooth’s root. If an infection has occurred you could end up losing your tooth because the bacteria may damage the bone that’s responsible for keeping your tooth firmly connected to the jaw.
Your dentist will decide if a root canal is the best treatment for you after a thorough examination. The treatment usually takes up to two dental appointments to complete.
Procedure for a root canal
Before commencing treatment, an x-ray will be taken of the affected area so your dentist knows precisely the state of the tooth in the part that can’t be seen.
- The area will be numbed so you don’t feel any pain.
- The next step is creating a hole in the top of the affected tooth so the tooth’s nerve can be removed from inside the tooth from what’s called the root canal.
- The dentist will then clean each of the two root canals.
- Each of the root canals will be filled with a rubber-like material that seals against any future infection.
- A temporary filling will be fitted in place which can later be replaced with a permanent filling and a crown.
After root canal treatment
You will have to attend a follow-up visit once the root canal has been completed. This is when the temporary filling is removed and a permanent one is put in place. Sometimes a post is fitted into the tooth for a crown to be placed which improves the appearance of the tooth. This is a choice you can make after discussing the option with your dentist.
A root canal can be a permanent solution
Even though this is a tooth restoration, it can still last a life time if proper twice-daily brushing and flossing takes place and twice-yearly visits to your dentist are followed.