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What is root canal treatment?

Root canal treatment, also known as endodontic treatment, is a procedure done to remove the inflamed or infected dental pulp and tissue. This treatment may be done when the tooth is badly decayed and the nerve has been irreversibly damaged to prevent you getting pain and risk an abscess forming. It is the only way to save a tooth where the pulp has been damaged, your only other option is an extraction and putting something in to replace the gap. Your tooth will still function the same way it does now, the nerves in the ligament surrounding the root send feedback to the brain about your chewing but you will not be able to feel any hot or cold sensations in the tooth as it is no longer living.

Why do I need root canal treatment?

There are several reasons why the dental pulp may get damaged. The cause of swelling in the nerve is actually the entry and growth of bacteria. If this gets to such a point the tooth won’t settle- irreversible pulpitis then a root canal therapy is needed. If the tooth dies silently then it maybe the symptoms of a dental abscess that bring it to your attention and cause you top seek treatment. The tooth has many protective mechanisms to try and stop bacteria getting in, but if it does it is only a matter of time before the nerve is damaged beyond repair. For this reason see us sooner when you first start experiencing symptoms, you may get away with just a filling.

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Here are the main reasons why the dental pulp gets damaged or inflamed:

  • Tooth decay (main one)
  • Fractured or cracked teeth
  • Repeated dental procedures on a certain tooth
  • Tooth trauma
  • Large fillings
  • Severe sensitivity
  • Problems with crowns or bridges
  • Deep loose or broken fillings
  • Resorption
  • Severe gum disease (perio-endo lesion)

What are the signs and symptoms of damaged dental pulp?

A damaged dental pulp can display a range of symptoms and be quite painful in late stages or if an abscess forms. You may also feel sensitivity to hot or cold foods and beverages even when the stimulus from foods and beverages is removed. You may get random pain and when it starts keeping you awake at night, the nerve is in trouble. It may radiate from top to bottom jaw on the one side and even up to the ear but never crosses over the midline. You may notice that the affected tooth is getting darker—this is a common sign that the pulp has actually died- often as a result of trauma or a blow to it. If you get a facial swelling or the tooth becomes very tender to touch or chew on, you need to see us right away, especially if you have fever and feel unwell as this suggests the infection is spreading.

Sometimes an area on an x-ray is found that demonstrates the death of the tooth – this is normally a dark radiolucent area around the tip or apex of the root. This is a bit of a ticking time bomb and a fluctuation of the bacteria may see a painful acute abscess result which you will most certainly know about.

Root canal is our last attempt at saving the tooth so it is very important that you have regular checkups with your dentist to detect problems in their early stages where possible.

What happens when I go to the dentist?

root-canal-treatmentYour dentist will conduct an full history of the pain and examination to determine the cause of the pain. X-rays may be needed for diagnosis or taken to determine the extent of damage and its location. A pulp test is commonly performed too to check the life of the teeth and see which tooth may be causing the problems.. This is done by placing something cold to the tooth to see whether the response is healthy or not. You may get no responses indicating it may be dead or an exaggerated response or a normal response. The results will be compared to other adjacent teeth. If your Maroubra dentist determines that root canal treatment is needed, they will discuss that with you including the cost, timeframe and prognosis. It normally takes a couple of visits and if you are in pain the first part of the procedure can often be done there and then to help relieve this.

Is it safe to get root canal treatment when pregnant?

If you are in pain and pregnant something needs to be done so as to not put stress on you and the baby. Root canal therapy generally involves x-rays which we don’t like taking unless we absolutely have to. The emergency treatment can be performed and then completed following the birth, this made need to be dressed a few times during the months before it depends. The second and third trimesters are preferable for the treatment but you can’t often pick and choose these things.

Before any treatment is administered, make sure you tell us or your dentist in Maroubra that you’re pregnant so proper precautions can be followed.

How do I take care of my teeth after getting root canal treatment?

Once the root canal treatment is completed, you may get some discomfort that generally settles with time. This is worst straight after but you may not get any issues. Take it easy chewing in the area where the procedure was done. Removing the nerve supply puts the tooth at risk of fracture because it becomes more brittle. A crown or full coverage restoration is advised by the ADA on posterior or back teeth to try and protect this. Sometimes a dentist may take it out of the bite or place a metal band around it to support it.

Also, you may experience sensitivity as the tissue is still inflamed but this can be managed with pain medications such as ibuprofen or paracetamol (whatever you are safe take).

Properly flossing and brushing your teeth will help with the healing, as well as preventing any further decay. You don’t want more root canal if you can avoid it. Routine checkups with your dentist twice a year will allow them pick up dental problems sooner so teeth can be treated more easily at this early stage. As always, use a fluoride toothpaste to help strengthen and re-mineralize your teeth.