Traditionally, serious tooth infections or critically decayed teeth would always be extracted. However, today most of the teeth in these conditions can be saved, with extraction only being a last resort option.
Root Canal treatment is where the infected or irritated nerve tissue that exists in the root of the tooth is removed. Without the removal of this tissue, an abscess would inevitably occur.
Steps in Treatment of Root Canal
1. Initially, it is important to gain entry to the nerve that is the core of the issue. With the patient under local anaesthetic, this is done by creating a tiny hole in the top of the tooth.
2. The dentist must determine the length of the root canal and eliminate the infected pulp tissue.
3. Whilst the patient is still under local anaesthetic, the canal where the nerve is situated will be remodelled and equipped to receive a unique root canal filling substance. The procedure where the filling is inserted generally does not occur until the next visit. (It is important to note that the number of visits needed to finish the root canal depends entirely upon the number of nerves in the tooth and the level of infection of the nerve)
4. Finally, the root canal must be sealed with a sterile, plastic substance – gutta percha. This step is completed to avoid possible future infections.
5. Afterwards, it is possible that the tooth will require a post and core and a crown to revert the tooth to its regular form and function.
Do you need Root Canal?
There are multiple indications for the need for root canal treatment. These include erratic aching or throbbing when biting foods, increased sensitivity to hot and cold food and beverages and extreme decay or an injury that generates an abscess (infection) in the bone.
What does Root Canal feel like?
If treated promptly, the Root Canal procedure can be pain-free although uncomfortable, through the use of local anaesthetic.
Myths Associated with Root Canal
There is a common ‘Old Wives Tale’ associated with Root Canal that states that eliminating the nerve in the tooth causes it to become “dead”. However, this is certainly not true as the tooth remains alive and can function normally as it still obtains a blood supply source and nerve supply from the tissues that grip it in place. Despite the tooth still being receptive to biting forces, it will have no sensation towards hot or cold beverages and food or sweets. Root Canal is an extremely successful procedure with success rates being as high as 95% and the tooth being able to last as long as the natural teeth.
It is possible that patients may suffer from some pain with their first or second root canal appointment if the infection has existed for a long time or if there are abscess. However, you will be provided with advice on how to reduce this discomfort, including possible antibiotics or prescribed analgesics. If any issues or pain does occur throughout your treatment, please do not hesitate to call us.
Home Care instructions post Root Canal Therapy
It is possible that you will experience discomfort after a treatment due to the irritation of bone around the tooth. This pain can either be mild or rarely can be substantial. However, this discomfort should reach its peak within 48-72 hours and slowly decrease thereafter. It is advisable to avoid biting or chewing using the treated tooth for at least 2-3 days following the treatment.
It is possible that you could experience a throbbing feeling in your tooth and if this occurs, it is recommended that you keep your head and neck raised and use one or two extra pillows to sleep on.Infection Minimisation -After the preparation for Root Canal, sometimes the tooth is left without the filling. If the tooth is left open, put a cotton ball in your tooth as guided by your dentist. This will help in the drainage of the infection. It is important to remove the cotton whilst eating or drinking.
If you experience swelling of your gum, rinse your mouth with a warm salt-water solution approximately every 1-2 hours. This solution can be made by combining a teaspoon of salt with warm water.
If you notice swelling of your face, apply ice to the swollen area for approximately 5 minutes ever half an hour.
If you have been prescribed antibiotic medication for infection, continue to take it as advised. It is imperative that you complete the whole course of antibiotics. However, if you experience any side effects, which may include a rash, gastric disruption or any trouble breathing, stop the antibiotics immediately and call our office or visit a local doctor.
If you have been prescribed other medication for discomfort take it as advised by the dentist or doctor. Please be aware that narcotic medications such as Vicodin, Demerol, Codeine and Percodan can make you feel lethargic. Hence, it is imperative that whilst you are consuming these medications you avoid working any heavy machinery, or from driving an automobile.
Dr Finkelstein prefers to send his patients to Endodontic specialists to perform root canal procedures.
Any surgical or invasive procedure carries risks. Before proceeding, you should seek a second opinion from an appropriately qualified health practitioner.
Dr Michael Finkelstein BDS