It’s easy to take a doom-and-gloom perspective when it comes to roots canals, since our society has made them seem like the epitome of a bad day at the dentist. In reality, root canals are a common dental procedure that is no more uncomfortable for the patient than any other routine dental work – like placing fillings. These procedures are performed under local anesthetic and therefore the patient does not feel pain signals from the affected side of the mouth.
You can think of a root canal as a more involved form of dental filling. Like a filling, the diseased tissue must be removed by means of a dental drill. In filling a cavity, the amount of tooth that must be removed is fairly shallow. For the purposes of a root canal, your dentist will open access to the tooth as well as the root chamber deep inside the tooth. This allows the diseased pulp and nerve tissue in the inner cavity to be removed and thoroughly disinfected. The large cavity that remains is sealed with gutta percha – a rubbery substance – before being closed with a crown. Grinding away tooth tissue inevitably weakens the structure of the teeth and without a cap to stabilize and support the remaining tooth it is likely to crack or break under pressure.
In most cases, decay is identified at routine dental appointments and can be corrected with dental fillings before it penetrates too deeply into the tooth. If the decay is not identified at a dental appointment, it may come to the attention of the patient when it starts to produce pain.
Once decay has tunnelled deeply enough into a tooth, it eventually meets with the chamber on the inside. The chamber houses the tooth’s nerve and blood supply, and bacteria infects the chamber tissue resulting in deep pain in the tooth. Once this tissue is infected, it is likely to form an abscess. In this case, a root canal will allow the patient to keep the tooth.
A dental abscess is a definite indication of infection and can form on the tooth, in the tooth or in the soft tissues around the tooth. It typically presents as a pimple-like lump on the gums and may or may not erupt on its own. These lumps indicate concentration of pus fluid inside the tissue which is building pressure. If the abscess has not erupted naturally, do not attempt to ‘pop’ it. If you do not see a pustule on the gums but taste a sour, foul taste in the mouth it is likely that an abscess has formed and ruptured within the tissues.
If you’ve previously had a root canal performed on a tooth that was contaminated or did not completely heal, your dentist may opt to perform an additional root canal to remedy the concern and allow you to continue to keep the tooth. Teeth that have darkened in appearance may benefit from internal bleaching as well as a root canal. This treats the source of the discolouration when whitening from the outside of the tooth does not penetrate deep enough.
Teeth are living parts of your body with several ‘working’ parts including the hard and soft tissue structures that support it. When teeth are dealt a traumatic blow, the internal tissues of the tooth become inflamed and may even die despite not having been knocked out of place. A dead tooth presents with significant pain and requires a root canal to remedy without extraction.
Even the smallest fracture along the tooth can produce painful eating and leads to infection when bacteria from the mouth is able to enter a crack in the tooth. A root canal will clean up the infection and a crown may be used to seal the tooth.
Tooth resorption is an important part of growing up and getting our adult teeth. As children, our baby teeth resorb (dissolve) in preparation for the adult teeth to move into the dental arch. Tooth resorption can occur from the outside-in, or the inside-out and is not a common occurrence in adult teeth unless there has been trauma. When resorption occurs in adults, it is not typically painful and therefore goes unnoticed until the next time your dentist takes a dental X-ray. If noticed early enough, root canal therapy can be the right treatment for this condition. Add that to the list of reasons to attend preventative checkups with your dentist every six months or more often as required.
As restorations, like fillings, age they are more likely to crack or chip. A cracked filling could allow bacteria in the mouth to enter the tooth underneath the filling and result in infection requiring a root canal.
For questions about this or other services offered by our general dentist contact our clinic today.