Endodontics - When You Need A Root Canal Procedure

Our Eltham dental team explains the reality behind this sometimes feared treatment

Most people have heard about root canal treatment; often not in a positive way. For many years, it has had the reputation of being extremely painful, and, without doubt, it is probably the one that strikes the most fear in patients when they are told that they need to have it.  Much of this anxiety stems from myths and stories from days gone by though, and modern day dental patients really shouldn’t worry about having it done.

It is thought likely that these ‘myths’ stem from a time before x-rays when it would have been impossible to detect any abscesses that were present in the tooth, something that is not uncommon with root canal infections. If a dentist had drilled, unknowingly, into the abscess, it would certainly have been incredibly painful. These days though, if we suspect there may be an inner tooth infection, we routinely take x-rays and scans to determine if this is the case, and, if any abscesses are found, they will be treated before the procedure takes place.

With that out of the way, let us take a look at what patients of AR Smiles Eltham dentists should expect if they do need to have this treatment.

When might you need root canal treatment?

Endodontic (literally, ‘inside the tooth’) treatment is often required when the root canals of the teeth become infected. This area contains a soft pulp material which is made up of tiny blood vessels, along with the nerves of the tooth. It is for this latter reason that an infection in this area can be incredibly painful. Once infection occurs in this area, there are only two options available; either treat the tooth or extract it. As a root canal procedure can save the tooth, leaving it functional for some time, and extraction should always be a last resort, we always recommend the former, despite any concerns that the patient might have.

What happens during the procedure?

This is what many patients want to know, especially if they are worried about it. We are convinced that when patients understand what happens, it helps to ease any concerns that they have about having the treatment.

Before any treatment starts, as explained earlier, we will x-ray the area to check for any abscesses. If any are found, they will be treated and the root canal procedure delayed until we are happy that you are abscess free. Once you are, your treatment can start.

The first thing that our Eltham dentists will do is to administer a local anaesthetic. This will numb the area where the treatment is to take place, enabling it to be carried out with minimum discomfort for the patient.

A rubber dam is then used to isolate the tooth. This helps to prevent any infections from spreading within the mouth and helps to keep the area as sterile as possible.

A section will then be removed from the top of the tooth crown. This enables the dentist to access the infected root canals. Using specialised instruments, the dentist will then remove the infected material and thoroughly clean the now hollow canals.

The root canals are then filled using a special filling called ‘gutta percha’, which is used in this case due to its excellent sealant properties. This will help to minimise the risk of any reinfection.

Finally, the tooth will be restored in many cases by the addition of a dental crown. This not only provides the treated tooth with a natural appearance, but also helps to strengthen the restored tooth.

As you can see, there should be no need to fear this treatment, especially with today’s highly effective local anaesthetics. Without this treatment, you would almost certainly need to have the tooth extracted.

With your new root canal treated tooth, you should be able to use it, more or less, as you would a healthy tooth. Some caution should be exercised though as, due to the nerves being removed from the tooth, it will be harder to gauge just how hard you are biting down on your food. This shouldn’t be an issue with softer foods, but we recommend that you use other teeth for biting and chewing foods that may be more challenging. This is just a precaution that can help you get a longer life from your new treated tooth.

You should also make sure to clean the treated tooth properly. You may no longer be able to get a toothache from it, but the tooth could weaken if the enamel becomes damaged so you should still brush the tooth and floss around it as you should with all of your teeth.

Our dentists are always happy to explain what happens during any treatment, should you wish to know. If you have any dental concerns at the moment or would like to register with us as a new patient, you can do so by calling AR Smiles today on 020 8856 7759.

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Site last updated December 2023
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