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Dental treatments

Rootcanal treatment

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What makes root canal treatment necessary?

In the centre of a tooth is a soft inner material called the pulp. The pulp contains the nerves and blood vessels that keep the tooth alive and healthy. It is surrounded by the harder dentine and enamel layers, which give it a chewing surface and protection from the things you eat.

The pulp of the tooth may be infected in a number of ways. A cavity might break through if left untreated, allowing bacteria into the pulp. Trauma to the jaw can crack a tooth, exposing the pulp to external infections. Severe gum disease can also open a path to the pulp. A root canal is a procedure that removes infected pulp and replaces it with an inert material.

Pain in the tooth is an indication of an infection in the pulp because the pulp is where pain-sensing nerves are located. Sensitivity to extreme temperatures, both hot and cold, are also indicators of pulp damage. Gum disease, swelling and tenderness are other signs of infected pulp, as is a pronounced bad taste in the mouth. If left untreated, infected pulp can cause a number of problems, including severe pain, loss of the tooth and loss of bone in the jaw.

What benefits does root canal treatment provide?

If left alone, damaged pulp will eventually destroy the infected tooth. A root canal treatment will save the tooth. The root canal treatment opens up the infected tooth and removes the pulp. The gap is then filled with an inert material and sealed up, allowing the tooth to continue to function. This also prevents the infection from reaching the gums, periodontal membrane and jawbone. These are all areas that can be damaged by prolonged tooth decay.

Does root canal treatment hurt?

A root canal treatment is often attributed quite a bit if pain, but modern dental practices make it virtually painless. During the root canal treatment itself, the tooth and surrounding area is anesthetized. There will be no pain, only a mild pressure and discomfort. After the procedure is complete and the anaesthetic wears off, there may be some sensitivity and pain in the tooth. This is due to inflamed gums more than the tooth itself. This discomfort can be managed easily with painkillers from the pharmacy. Only in rare instances is the pain severe, in which case you should contact your dentist immediately.

How does root canal treatment work?

The first step is to anesthetize the effected tooth, preventing any pain during the procedure

  • Once the tooth has been anesthetized, an opening is made in the crown of the tooth, allowing the dentist to access the infected pulp
  • Using a specially designed file, the infected pulp is removed, and the root canal is cleaned Debris from the procedure is removed with an antibacterial solution
  • The canal is packed with gutta-percha, an inert material that prevents infection and fills the interior of the tooth
  • The access hole is filled with a filling, or the tooth is capped with a crown, depending on how much of the original tooth was left after the procedure

In order to prevent contamination to the deep root of the tooth, and to limit potential damage to surrounding areas, the tooth is isolated with a rubber dam during the procedure. The entire treatment can be completed in a single sitting, or it can take place during several appointments, depending on the complexity of the operation and depth of the infection. If the procedure requires multiple visits, the open tooth will be packed with medications and sealed with a temporary filling.

Proper care of a treated tooth

Before the treatment is complete -- that is, before a permanent crown or filling is in place -- limit the amount of chewing you do on that side of the mouth. It is possible to fracture the tooth accidentally, requiring further operation to restore it. Once the tooth is permanently sealed, simply treat it as you would a normal tooth. Brush the tooth, floss well and visit the dentist regularly. Your dentist will inspect the treated tooth for damage, which you won't be able to feel due to the removal of the pulp and nerves.

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