Are you experiencing intense and sharp pain in your teeth when you chew or experiencing sensitivity to cold and hot foods? Your tooth might be infected, and it is integral to immediately consult your dentist to determine whether you need a root canal treatment.
Root canal procedure is a common treatment for infected or decayed teeth. It is essential to learn about the procedure to understand what to expect and clear any misconceptions you might have about the process.
What is a Root Canal?
Your teeth have an outer layer of enamel, followed by a layer of dentin and a soft core inside that is rooted in your jawline. This core includes the dental pulp that consists of odontoblasts, fibroblasts, nerves, blood vessels, and connective tissue.
The pulp of the tooth gets infected or inflamed once the decay reaches the core. In severe cases, the pulp even dies because of the decay. A root canal procedure is done to clean the decay and save the tooth.
Root canal treatment removes the bacteria from the infected tooth and prevents further spread. When the infected pulp gets removed in the procedure, the insides of the tooth get cleaned and disinfected and is replaced with a filling to seal the space. It helps in saving the natural tooth.
Signs and Symptoms of a Root Canal
There are numerous symptoms that can indicate you might need a root canal treatment. The most common signs include:
- Darkening or deep decay of gums
- Tender or swollen gums
- Lingering sensitivity to cold or hot drinks or foods
- Cracked or chipped tooth
- Pimples on gums
- Severe pain while biting or chewing
If you are experiencing one or more of these symptoms, then be sure to consult your dentist immediately.
Do You Need a Root Canal?
The root canal procedure is required when the pulp of the tooth becomes infected, inflamed, or injured. The crown of your teeth can stay, for instance, even when the pulp is injured or dead. However, it causes severe pain.
The ideal way to preserve the tooth’s structure is to remove the infected or injured pulp, which is done through the root canal procedure. The most common causes of infection or damage to the pulp are as follows:
- Injury to the tooth, like getting hit on the mouth
- Cracked or chip tooth
- Multiple dental processes are done on the same tooth
- Deep decay caused by an untreated cavity
It is essential to consult an experienced dentist to determine if a root canal is a right treatment for you. The dentist will assess the tooth and take x-rays to determine the root cause.
Steps in Root Canal Procedure
There are several steps involved in the root canal treatment, which are as follows:
1. Preparing the Area
The procedure starts by numbing the area of the jaw that requires a root canal. A numbing agent is injecting into the gums and the roots of the tooth. After the area has been numbed, a dental dam is inserted in the mouth to cover the rest of the teeth during the procedure.
2. Cleaning the Roots
A dental drill is used to access the pulp chamber and root canals. The area is thoroughly cleaned out of the inside of the tooth. An antiseptic and antibacterial solution is used to disinfect and clean the root canal. This helps in eliminating the bacteria and treating the infection.
3. Shaping the Root Canal
Before filling the root canals, the dentist shapes them using tiny instruments. This helps in preparing the root canal for the filling material. When the canals are shaped appropriately, they are once again cleaned before the filling.
4. Filling the Root Canal
The dentist makes sure to decontaminate and clean the hollow area using irrigation solutions and tiny files. The tooth is then filled with a gutta-percha material, which is a rubber-like solution. The mixture is heated and compressed to ensure it fills the inside of the tooth completely. Next, an adhesive cement material is used to seal the canal to protect against bacteria.
The tooth is dead after the root canal procedure, and you won’t feel any pain since the painful nerve tissue has been removed and the infection has been eliminated.
5. Filling the Access Hole
Next, the access hole is also sealed to prevent any bacteria from entering the tooth. If the tooth has been severely damaged and can’t support its restoration, a post is placed in the canal for strength.
The tooth becomes more fragile after root canal therapy. Without its pulp, the tooth receives nourishment through the ligament that connects it to the bone. The supply is sufficient, but the tooth is bound to get brittle without the pulp, which is why a filling or crown is needed to offer protection.
The crowning is usually done a few weeks after the root canal procedure to ensure the area has completely healed after the treatment. Until the filling or crowning has been done, you must avoid biting or chewing on the tooth.
The root canal treatment usually takes one appointment. However, if there is a large infection, multi-canals, or curved canals, it might require more appointments.
Your gums and tooth may experience soreness once the numbing agent starts wearing off. There is also a possibility of swelling. These symptoms are usually treated with over-the-counter medications, like ibuprofen (Advil) or acetaminophen (Tylenol). Make sure to call the dentist immediately if you are experiencing extreme pain.
You can resume normal activities after the root canal procedure, but avoid hard foods and chewing on the side where the treatment was done until a crown has been placed. Be sure to go to the follow-up appointment, where x-rays will be taken of the treated area to ensure the infection is completely gone.
It might take a few weeks for you to get used to the new feeling of the treated tooth. This is not a cause of concern. Just be sure to take care of your teeth as you normally do to prevent any problems.
Complications of Root Canal
Just like with other procedures, certain complications might happen with a root canal treatment.
- If one root canal is left untreated while others are treated, the infection will continue to spread and might affect the bone.
- If the root canal isn’t properly sealed, the infection will resume.
- The tooth’s root might get cracked, making it hard to effectively fill the tooth.
It is integral to always go to an experienced dentist for consultation and root canal treatment. Moreover, it is also important to closely follow the instructions given by the dentist before and after the procedure to avoid complications.
After the root canal, it is also recommended to get a permanent restoration, like a crown, to protect the root canal.
Aftercare of Root Canal Procedure
After the root canal treatment, you might experience minimal discomfort, but you would be able to go about your normal activities without any problem. Be sure to take any prescription medications your dentist prescribes to avoid pain and reduce inflammation.
Aftercare is integral for faster healing and long-lasting benefits. Here are some things to keep in mind:
Right After Treatment
Your mouth would be numb for at least a few hours after the treatment. It is essential to avoid drinking hot beverages and consuming solid foods. Be sure to take your pain medication as prescribed by the dentist. Try to rest for the remainder of the day if you can.
Next Few Days
The next few days after the surgery are crucial, so to avoid any complications, be sure to follow the instructions of the dentist. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Consume soft foods
- Continue taking prescription medication
- Chew food on the opposite side of the mouth that had the procedure
- Brush your teeth extra gentle
The pain will subside within a week, but if it doesn’t, it is best to immediately consult your dentist.
Be sure to go on all future dental appointments even if the root canal has properly healed. You might need crowning if the filling your dentist used is temporary. Your dentist will check to determine when to put in the crown.
Aside from any follow-up appointments, get your teeth professionally cleaned regularly to maintain good oral hygiene and avoid any further problems.
To avoid gum disease, tooth decay, and infections that can lead to a root canal, the following prevention tips are helpful:
- Brushing teeth twice a day, particularly right before bedtime.
- Using fluoride toothpaste
- Going for regular dental cleaning and check-ups
- Flossing once every day to prevent plaque build-up
- Following a balanced, healthy diet and avoiding sugary foods and drinks
Prevention is always better as it helps you avoid expensive and long dental procedures.
A root canal is a restorative procedure that is required in case of tooth decay or damage. The majority of patients who have had root canal procedures have experienced positive results and improvement in their dental health. The results last longer if you improve your oral hygiene habits.
Whether you require a root canal surgery or a professional dental cleaning, Austin Family Dentist provides a wide range of dental services and experts ready to help you. Get in touch with us to book your appointment today.