To root canal, or not to root canal? That is the question…
And I guess the answer depends on whether you want to try to keep the tooth a bit longer or to call it quits. This should not be a rash decision. When you’re in pain it may seem like the best option to just take the tooth out; but nothing is ever as good as your real tooth...and teeth, once gone, cannot easily or cheaply be replaced.
We’re going to get a bit technical so you can decide for yourself the best course of
action. So here it is, the low down on root canal treatment.
Tooth Anatomy 101
The tooth is made of several layers:
Crown: The visible part of the tooth, the part you use to bite and chew.
Enamel: The hard surface of the crown.
Root: Part of the tooth under the gum.
Pulp: The very centre of the tooth; what most people call the nerve.
When a tooth's pulp (nerve) is damaged, it allows bacteria to multiply within the pulp chamber, (the nerve) in the crown, causing an infection or abscessed tooth. Signs that can be present:
Swelling that may spread to other areas of the face, neck, or head;
Bone loss around the tip of the root;
Abscess draining: a small, pimple-like bump in the gums.
What are the signs that a root canal treatment may be needed?
Symptoms of an infected tooth needing a root canal treatment can be:
Spontaneous tooth pain.
Throbbing pain in the tooth.
Severe pain when eating or when you put pressure on the area.
Lingering sensitivity or pain to hot or cold.
A small, pimple-like bump on the gums near the area of painful teeth.
An abscess visible on an x-ray.
How does the pulp (nerve) get damaged?
A tooth's pulp (nerve) can become irritated, inflamed and infected due to:
Work close to the nerve (pulp) of the tooth.
Trauma to the teeth or mouth.
A crack in the tooth.
What is Root Canal Treatment?
The process of pain relief; removing the affected nerve (pulp); cleaning and shaping the passageways of the nerve (pulp); and the filling and sealing of the passageway.
How long does it take?
Let’s just put this out there, this is not a quick fix. We will need to see you for a number of visits.
The first visit:
We open up the tooth, remove the nerve and place a calming agent inside the canal.
This relieves the pressure and takes away the pain.
A temporary filling will be placed.
But don't be fooled, just because you're out of pain things don't end here!
The second visit:
Widen and shape the passageways (canals) of the nerve.
The third and hopefully the last visit:
If the tooth is quiet, fill and seal the passageways (canals).
Does it hurt?
Most people think it does but that's not the case.
We will numb you, so it is usually no more traumatic than a filling.
The process of removing the infection can sometimes cause discomfort, especially if the infection is severe.
Is a crown necessary after a root canal treatment?
The living tissue within the tooth has been removed.
The tooth becomes very brittle.
The tooth may need the strength crowns provide.
Some teeth may be suitable for a filling to offer protection.
Your dentist will help you decide the best option for protecting the tooth after a root canal treatment.
What happens if I don’t choose a root canal treatment?
Doing nothing is still a choice. And if this is what you decide then we will respect that. However, you should know that the infection won’t go away until the source – in this case the infected nerve (pulp) – is removed, either through root canal treatment or extraction. Eventually the tooth will force you into action, but at that point, root canal treatment may no longer be an option.
This also true of incomplete root canal treatment. Getting you out of pain is just the beginning. If you leave a void, bacteria will populate the area and you may be left with only one option – removal of the tooth.
But tooth decay can still occur in treated teeth, so good oral hygiene and regular dental exams are necessary to prevent further problems.
So that’s it...and yes it was a long one but it’s an in-depth procedure. But don’t get me wrong, this post is not about convincing you to have a root canal treatment. It’s about giving you all the information so you can decide.