If a tooth is badly infected or if the nerve is starting to die, your dentist may recommend that a root canal treatment is performed as an alternative to removing the tooth altogether. Serious infections are when the nerve inside a tooth has become infected with bacteria, resulting from an untreated cavity, previous filling, injury or a crack in the tooth.
Generally speaking, where possible a root canal is preferable to tooth extraction as it allows the natural tooth to stay in place. Unfortunately in some cases the tooth may be too damaged to save and therefore it will be necessary to have a tooth extraction followed by a plate, bridge or dental implant to replace it.
Despite the rumours surrounding root canals, they are a safe and common procedure, and a relatively painless way of treating an infected tooth.
As with all dental procedures, pain management is an important part of the treatment for root canal procedures. Before your root canal procedure beings, the tooth and gum is anesthetised similar to as if you were having a filling.
During the first visit of a root canal, the dentist will remove bacteria and the damaged nerve and pulp from inside the tooth. Once all of the damaged and infected material has been removed, the chamber will be thoroughly cleaned and dried to reduce the risk of any further infection occurring. The final step is to fill the empty root space with medicine and seal the tooth with a temporary filling. The tooth is then normally left for between 2 and 4 weeks to settle before the second stage is completed.
At the second visit the dentist will clean out the medicine, confirm the tooth has settled down, and then fill inside the roots of the tooth. A filling is then placed in the tooth to restore the shape.
In some cases, a crown may be necessary for the top of the tooth to strengthen it and avoid the tooth from breaking. The dentist will normally inform you of what time frame this should be completed in. Sometimes it is recommended almost straight away, other times leaving the tooth 6-12 months to settle is advised.
Your mouth is likely to stay numb for a couple of hours following your appointment, so for your safety eating is not recommended until the numbness has worn off. You may experience some sensitivity or mild pain around the area but this should not last longer than a few days. Part of your post-treatment care may include to avoid biting on hard foods until the permanent crown is in place.
If you feel you need a root canal, or would like to know more, please contact our friendly reception team on 09 818 8855.