During a root canal treatment, your dentist will remove the infected tooth pulp and replace it with a filling. A root canal procedure is performed to save a dead or dying tooth and to prevent an infection from spreading to other teeth and gums. Let’s take a closer look at what is a root canal?
When Is A Root Canal Treatment Performed?
The pulp of your teeth is known as its lifeline. The dental pulp is full of blood vessels, nerves and tissue fibres and its primary purpose is to feed a developing tooth with nutrients. Sometimes a crack in your dental enamel can cause bacteria to enter and multiply in the pulp of the tooth. When there is an infection in the pulp, the whole pulp needs to be cleaned out and sealed.
In years gone by, before dentistry was so advanced, teeth with infected pulp had to be removed. Having a root canal treatment gives patients the option of saving a tooth. This is important because a natural tooth is stronger and more resilient than tooth replacements. Despite the use of anaesthetic, root canal treatments also used to be very painful. Thanks to modern dentistry this procedure is much more comfortable and bearable for patients.
Why Might A Root Canal Treatment Be Necessary?
If you need a root canal treatment you might experience some of the following symptoms:
- Tooth sensitivity to hot and cold
- Spontaneous pain
- Pain when chewing or biting
- Loose tooth
- Swollen gums around the infected tooth
- Discharge of infected material from the gums
- A noticeable pimple in your gum
It is possible and fairly common for a patient to need a root canal procedure but not experience any symptoms. The safest way to stay on top of your dental hygiene is to visit your dentist every six months. Any symptoms or warning signs will be picked up by your dentist during the examination or on a dental x-ray and addressed early on.
What Is A Root Canal Infection Caused By?
A number of incidents and events can result in you needing a root canal procedure. Some of these include
- Deep or untreated tooth decay
- Trauma to the tooth that causes damage
- Dental decay below a loose or old filling
- Gum disease
- Cracks or fractures in your enamel
- Persistent teeth grinding (that damages or compromises your dental enamel)
Why Is It So Important To Perform A Root Canal Procedure?
Infected tooth pulp does not self-resolve. It leads to further complications and compromises the integrity of the other teeth in your mouth. If untreated, infected tooth pulp can result in
Even though some patients may present asymptomatically, the infection can result in severe pain and discomfort. A root canal procedure is the only way to address this pain at the source.
A spreading infection
An infection in your tooth pulp can spread and start to affect other teeth in your mouth. It may also cause an infection in your gums. A very severe infection can lead to an abscess developing at the tip of your tooth root, which is extremely painful, and which can make you very sick. The infection can lead to blood poisoning, fever and general illness that affects your body.
An uncontained infection can progress to infect your jaw bone, leading to bone loss, and which may result in tooth loss.
If you do not have a root canal procedure in time, it is highly likely that you will lose the infected tooth. If you have severe bone loss, it can also make a tooth replacement very difficult due to lack of support.
What Is A Root Canal: Understanding The Root Canal Procedure
Depending on the extent of your infection it’s quite likely that you will return to your dentist for a few visits in order to clean out the infected pulp. Ultimately a root canal treatment aims to
Remove the infection and any active decay
Old fillings, dental decay and infected tooth pulp must be removed. If you have a lot of infected material you may return for a few sessions to ensure your dentist can remove it all.
Shape your canals
Your canals need to be smoothed and hollowed out so that there are no spaces to hold any residual bacteria. Your dentist will also apply disinfectants to ensure that the canals are clean enough to be sealed.
Fill and seal your canals
In a similar manner to dental fillings, the cleaned out canals must be filled up so that they cannot be reinfected.
Restore functionality to your tooth
When your dentist accessed your canals, a hole was drilled into your tooth. This hole, as well as any dental decay, must be well sealed to prevent bacteria from accessing your tooth in the future. To do this your dentist will create a crown to fit over the restored tooth. This strengthens your tooth and ensures that you can bite and chew with comfort.
If you still have questions about what is a root canal, are experiencing unexplained dental pain or are due for your check-up, please contact us for an appointment: (03) 9626 9581.