As dentists, we understand that many patients exhibit at least some signs of anxiety and worry when they need to see a dentist, especially if they know that they need to have treatment. The one procedure which is almost guaranteed to make even usually calm patients show more anxiety than usual is the root canal procedure. But there is no need to worry.
Indeed, this general dental treatment is a very good way to save a tooth under certain circumstances, which we’ll explain below.
In this blog, we will take a look at what the procedure is used for and what it entails, and also why we think that it may have gained the reputation that it has. And also why some of stories of discomfort you may have heard are significantly exaggerated!
Why you might need a root canal procedure
A root canal procedure is used for one main purpose, and that is when the ‘pulp’ area of the tooth becomes infected. This is at the very centre of the tooth, beneath both the enamel and dentin parts. The pulp includes tiny blood vessels and also the nerves of the tooth.
When the enamel of a tooth is broken or decayed issues can arise because the dentin layer beneath it is porous and bacteria can spread quite fast. Providing that it is detected and treated quite quickly, this will mostly entail filling the tooth to restore it. Where the damage is left for longer, or where the tooth breaks in such a way that the internal parts are exposed, the infection is likely to reach the root canals. When this happens, there are two options left, extraction or a root canal procedure.
Why are people so worried by the treatment?
This particular treatment seems to have built up a reputation as the worst procedure that you can have. There is no reason why this should be the case and most patients are happy to find that it is no more uncomfortable than some other invasive treatments.
Whilst no one seems to know exactly why people are so afraid of it, there is a growing consensus that it probably stems from a time before x-rays were widely available. Without the use of an x-ray, there is no way of knowing if an abscess has formed inside the tooth. Making contact with an undetected abscess during a procedure would be very painful! Patients of the Sync Dental Centres in Addlestone will be pleased to know that x-rays are always now taken prior to this treatment being carried out, and should an abscess be found, the procedure will be delayed until it has been treated.
The root canal procedure
We now come to the procedure itself, the one that so many people seem to be afraid of. We won’t gloss over it; it is an invasive procedure but the only one that can save your tooth in this particular situation. The first thing that we should say is that it is always done with a local anaesthetic to minimise any discomfort. Once the area where the treatment is to take place is fully numb, the procedure can begin.
In order to reach the root canals at the very centre of the tooth, it is sometimes necessary to remove a section at top of the tooth so that the dentist can see the canals that are to be treated. The infected pulp material is them removed using a combination of suction and manual removal. The canals will then be cleaned with an antibacterial solution to minimise the chances of any re-infection.
Having removed the infected pulp, it is then necessary to fill the hollow canals and for this we use a special filling material called gutta percha. This is used particularly for its excellent sealing qualities and once this has been placed, the treatment is almost complete. Although there are occasions where they may not be needed, we normally then attach a dental crown to give the tooth both a natural shape and also for additional strength. We are then complete.
The procedure may not be anyone’s idea of fun, but it certainly shouldn’t be feared in the way that some patients do.
Looking after your treated tooth
A tooth that has been preserved using this treatment should be perfectly functional for general use. You should remember a few important things though.
You won’t suffer from toothache if you don’t keep the tooth clean as all of the nerves have been removed. It is important to clean it well though, and especially around the gums so that gum disease does not become a problem.
A root canal treated tooth, whilst fine for general use, is not quite as strong as a natural healthy tooth. As such it is best to be careful when biting down on harder foods to avoid any issues.
We hope that this explanation helps to allay any concerns about the treatment, but we are always happy to talk you through it in more detail if you feel this would be useful.
If you would like to make an appointment with one of the friendly dental or hygienist team at the Sync Dental Centres, please call us on 01932 856541.