Given the amount of ‘scare stories’ that have built up around root canal treatment over time, it is probably not surprising that some patients of the Sync Dental Centres react negatively when told that they need to have this done in order to save a tooth.
The reality though is that this is the only treatment available to save a tooth where the root canals have become infected. The only other option is extraction.
As for the ‘pain’ factor, well, it is an invasive procedure but, with a local anaesthetic, should cause no more discomfort than most other invasive dental treatments, and so the adverse reputation is not really deserved.
It might help a little to understand why the treatment needs to be carried out and what actually happens during it.
The root canals of a tooth are the place where the nerves of the tooth are stored, along with tiny blood vessels and other soft pulp material. If a tooth has cracked or has become decayed, there is a possibility that this area can become infected with bacteria. As the nerves are located there, it can be very painful indeed.
The only option, other than extracting the tooth, is to remove the infected pulp material and fill the root canals. This is done by first of all numbing the area with a local anaesthetic. The top part of the tooth is then accessed so that your Addlestone dentists can reach the root canals. The infected pulp is removed through the use of suction and special files before being thoroughly cleaned to remove any bacteria present. Once the dentist is satisfied that the canals are clean, they are then filled with a special filling material called ‘gutta percha’. Finally, in most cases, a crown will be attached to the tooth to provide strength, protection and a natural appearance.
This is an effective way to preserve a tooth that has been affected in this way. It should enable you to eat more or less normally, although it will not be quite as strong as a healthy tooth and there are certain precautions that you should take.
After you have received your treatment, there may be some numbness left from the anaesthetic for a short while. It is very important that you don’t use the treated tooth to bite anything at this stage as you may apply more force than you realise and damage the tooth. Once the anaesthetic wears off, there may be some residual discomfort for a short while and you may need to take your usual painkiller until this subsides.
It is likely that the new tooth may feel a little unusual initially. This is natural but if you have any concerns or experience symptoms such as swellings or pain when any pressure is applied, you should contact us immediately for further advice. For most people though, once any initial discomfort has subsided the new tooth should be trouble free providing that it is looked after correctly.
As mentioned earlier, a tooth root treated in this manner should provide you with one that can stand most daily stresses and strains. It will not be quite as strong as a healthy tooth though and it is worth remembering that as the nerves are no longer present in the root canals, you won’t be able to feel sensations such as heat or pressure as well. There is a danger in this that you might be tempted to bite on something harder than you realise. This is especially problematic if you bite down on something that is hard as it may cause the tooth to fracture.
Providing that you don’t damage the tooth in the way mentioned above, you should get many years of use from it. You will, however, have to make sure that you keep it, and the surrounding gums, clean through regular daily care. Although the nerves are no longer present and you can’t therefore experience pain in that tooth, the natural part of it can still decay. This could result in the loss of the crown and the need for its replacement where feasible.
Your gum health is important too as gum disease, especially if it becomes advanced, could result in bone loss and the inability of the bone to secure the tooth roots in place. To make sure that your treated tooth, along with all the others of course, remain healthy, there are three things that you should do.
Brush your teeth morning and night with a good quality toothbrush using a toothpaste that contains fluoride. Angle the bristles so that they reach beneath the gum line and spit but don’t rinse. Finally, make sure that you don’t drink anything other than water after your night time brushing.
Use dental floss. This is very beneficial in removing bacteria and tiny food particles that become trapped between the teeth and in the gum pockets. You may find it a little tricky at first but perseverance will reap benefits. There are many instructional videos online to teach you how to do it and our hygienist will be able to help too.
Have your teeth and gums professionally cleaned every 6 months (or 3 months if you are a higher risk patient such as a diabetic). Having this done by the hygienist at the Sync Dental Centres is an excellent way of helping to keep your teeth and gums healthy and minimising the risk of gum disease.
With good oral health care, and perhaps a little luck, we hope that you won’t ever require a root canal treatment. If you do however, you can be sure that our experienced clinical team will take good care of you and provide the level of service that you would expect at our Addlestone practice.
If you need to contact us to make an appointment or for any other enquiries, please contact the Sync Dental Centres by calling us on 01932 856541.