Teeth can suffer damage from a wide range of causes, including untreated cavities, gum disease, and even injury.
Modern dental medicine provides many ways to treat these issues and in cases of serious damage, one of the most common restorative and protective treatments is the root canal.
For some patients, however, the very mention of a root canal causes anxiety, even fear. The fact is, however, that root canals are extremely safe, effective, and most often simple – they are just often misunderstood.
That’s why EK Dental Surgery has put together this ultimate guide to root canals to explain the procedure, why it’s done, and how it works.
What Is A Root Canal?
A root canal is a dental procedure that removes a tooth’s interior pulp while at the same time preserving the tooth. Root canals provide an alternative to extracting severely damaged, decayed, or infected teeth.
Most often, a root canal is an outpatient procedure that does not call for general anesthesia, lost work, or a prolonged recovery period.
Why Might I Need A Root Canal?
Common culprits in the need for root canal treatment include:
- Decay: Tooth decay that has penetrated the outer layers of the teeth causes root canal pain.
- Damage: Cracks or chips in teeth can cause decay, cavities, and root canal pain.
- Disease: Possible causes of infection in tooth pulp include extreme tooth decay, damage to the tooth, large fillings, recent dental work, infection, and chips or cracks in the teeth.
Signs You Might Need A Root Canal
Signs of a problem severe enough to require a root canal include:
- Extreme tooth pain when eating or when pressure is applied
- Teeth pain and/or sensitivity to hot or cold that remains after the hot or cold substance is gone from the mouth
- A small, balloon-like bump on the gums near the area of pain
- Darkening of the tooth
- Swelling or tenderness in the gums near the painful tooth
How Are Root Canals Performed?
A root canal is basically a four-step process that is normally performed over two office visits.
- Your dentist administers local anesthesia to numb the tooth. It’s common to feel a bit of a pinch in the area when the needle goes in. After you are numb a dental dam will be placed. This is a small rubber sheet that keeps the tooth clean and dry during the procedure.
- Your dentist will use very small tools to reach the inside of the tooth by creating an opening in the top of the tooth. Small files will be used to clear away the damaged and diseased pulp from the inside of the tooth and shape the inner chamber of the tooth and root. Your mouth may be irrigated the to wash away any remaining pulp and an antimicrobial solution may be placed in the chamber to kill any remaining bacteria
- Once the chamber is thoroughly cleaned and dried, it will be filled, most often with a rubber-like material called gutta-percha. The opening will be temporarily sealed while your permanent crown is being manufactured.
- In a few weeks, your dentist will conclude the treatment with a permanent crown, or similar type of restoration, on the top of the tooth.
How Long Do Root Canals Last?
Root canals have a success rate of around 95% and in many cases they can last a lifetime.
There are two things you can do to ensure that your root canal will last
- Practice good oral hygiene. This means brushing and flossing at least twice a day, particularly after meals and before bed.
- A tooth that has had a root canal is not invulnerable to further dental issues. As long as it is in your mouth, it must be treated well. The tooth itself can still suffer from decay or get a cavity. The root canal treatment removes the nerves from the tooth, so you won’t feel pain if you do get a cavity. This why it is so critical to get regular checkups and cleanings.
Do Root Canals Hurt?
Many patients have heard stories of root canals being painful. In fact, you will be anaesthetised during the entire procedure, just like getting a filling. Some patients even sleep during root canal procedure as the pain they were experiencing goes away!
The “pain” associated with a root canal is really pain resulting from the underlying cause and not from the procedure itself! After a root canal there may be temporary soreness, but is usually much less than that suffered before the procedure.
EK Dental Surgery, Your Trusted Oral Health Partner
EK Dental Surgery offers a wide variety of preventative and cosmetic dental procedures for kids, seniors, and everyone in between! At EK Dental we can help you achieve tip-top dental health and a movie-star smile!
Same day emergency appointment available!
Call (03) 9887 8787 or visit us at 230 Springvale Road in Glen Waverley.