The Ultimate Guide to Root Canals

Root Canal: Symptoms, Treatment, Costs, and Process

What Is A Root Canal?

A tooth is comprised of two parts, the crown and root. The crown is the visible part of the tooth above gum level while the root is below it. Root canal treatment, or endodontic therapy as it is more formally known, is a procedure involving the hollow part of the tooth, also known as root canal.

The root canal contains the pulp, mainly comprised of blood vessels and nerves. This pulp not only moisturises the surrounding material but also nourishes the tooth itself, while the nerves sense and relay the extreme temperatures as pain. Endodontic therapy is aptly named since it means “inside the tooth”. Over time, the more common term for the procedure has come to be known as root canal.


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Who Should Get A Root Canal, and Why?

Root canal therapy is the obvious solution for people suffering from root canal pain, who want tosave their natural tooth as opposed to going for an implant following an extraction of a damaged tooth.

A tooth can become damaged when the pulp inside dies following injury or disease. This can occur owing to infection after bacteria enters the pulp, when there is a crack or cavity in the tooth. Symptoms of dental infection include higher sensitivity to extreme temperatures, and pain while chewing as well as a continuous throbbing pain.

Eventually, the infection will cause the bone to break down and surrounding ligaments to swell, loosening the tooth and thus requiring treatment or extraction. A root canal treatment typically mollifies the pain and saves the tooth unless the damage is irreparable. It is extremely vital therefore to research thoroughly because root canal cost varies and so do the ensuing results.

How Do I Know If I Need A Root Canal?

A root canal treatment is advisable for cracked teeth. This may result from injury or may even be carried over genetically in certain cases. Leftover problems from previous fillings may also necessitate endodontic treatment. Higher sensitivity to varying temperatures might also be experience. Furthermore, excessive pain while chewing is also usually indicative of a root canal treatment being required.

Looser than normal teeth also point towards a potential infection. However, teeth are not the only indicators of treatment being needed; pimples and otherwise dark and swollen gums may also indicate the underlying need for endodontic therapy.

What happens during root canal treatment?

Root canal treatment is generally performed by an endodontist – a dentist who specialises in root canals. The procedure involves an initial x-ray to observe the root canals shape and possible infection in the surrounding area. Local anesthesia may be given to numb the area near the tooth and make the patient feel more at ease. A rubber sheet is then placed around the tooth to keep it dry and free of saliva.

The next step involves removing the bacteria, decayed nerves, and pulp from the tissue through an access drilled into the tooth. Root canal files are placed into the access hole and used to scrape the sides of the canal. The debris is regularly flushed using water.

Depending on the state of infection in the pulp, the tooth is then sealed – outright after the cleaning of the root canal or about a week later with medication put inside the tooth during that time. The tooth interior is sealed using sealer paste and gutta percha, a rubber compound. Further restoration of the tooth, for instance crowning, may then be pursued later depending on what the dentist may suggest as the best course of treatment.

Are there any possible root canal side-effects, risks, or complications?

While root canal is a relatively straightforward procedure, certain complications can sometimes arise. These include:

  • Re-infection: Sometimes infection can set in again after completion of the procedure. This can be caused due to a variety of reasons. When the canal is not cleaned properly infection can set in. Further, exposure of the tooth interior via a fracture, low grade filling material and complexities in the root formation ma also invite infection. Depending on the damage sustained by the tooth, tooth removal may be explored.
  • Broken instruments: Chipped off pieces of dental instruments can sometimes remain lodged inside the canal. These can be removed using ultrasonic instruments and microscopes, or forceps/scaler depending on the size.
  • Fractured crown or root: The tooth can become brittle and fragile, as the blood supply to the tooth is typically removed during a root canal procedure. These fractures sometimes form after repeated grinding of tough objects and can be detected at any point before, during or after the root canal. This can be remedied by filling or extraction.
  • Missed canals: Each tooth typically has four canals, sometimes comprised of more complex ones. Dentists can sometimes miss one of these complex canals, enabling bacteria to survive in the tooth and cause problems.

Does a root canal hurt?

Thanks to modern medical technology, there is negligible pain in root canal procedure owing to anesthesia numbing the patient’s tooth and gums during the root canal procedure. The process itself resembles one to getting a particularly large filling, for the patient. While it takes longer, the numbing removes any pain.

Antibiotics might be prescribed by the dentist, in order to help fight the infection and related root canal pain. In event of any soreness afterwards, over-the-counter pain medication may be suggested. According to the majority of patients, the pain reduces considerably within a day of treatment, and is almost eliminated within a week.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What are the potential side effects of a root canal?

Re-infection is possible, but not very common. It can be treated with a simple process. Re-infection is the result of improperly cleaned tooth canals, or owing to a crack that went undetected in the tooth.

What are the potential risks of a root canal?

Over 95% of procedures are successful. Retreatment may be required in case of undetected infected canal offshoots or if one of the canal filing instruments breaks. Pain is a symptom of a root canal procedure gone awry, and the patient is advised to seek his or her dental practitioner for further treatment.

Are there any alternatives to a root canal?

The only viable alternative is to have the tooth extracted. While this may cost less initially, an implant may be expensive. Additionally, the surrounding teeth may also be affected, leading to a bad bite. Removing a tooth also affects the stability of the surrounding teeth. Normally it is considered best practice to save the original tooth.

Can I take Ibuprofen before a root canal?

Ibuprofen may help minimize inflammation if taken before the procedure. However it varies from case to case so advice must be taken from one’s dentist.

Can I eat after a root canal?

It is better to wait until the numbness wears off so one does not accidentally bite their tongue or cheek. Chewing from the treated tooth should be avoided until full restoration.

What Can I Eat After A Root Canal?

Soft and cold foods such as fruit (bananas, mangoes etc.) and yoghurts/smoothies can be eaten after the treatment. Hard, crunchy and spicy foods should be avoided, as they increase the sensitivity of the tooth. Furthermore, consuming alcohol must be avoided until the tooth is fully restored as it may cause bleeding in the surrounding area. Patients should also eat from the other side of the mouth to avoid discomfort.

Can I drink coffee after a root canal?

Hot coffee should be avoided or it can cause discomfort in the treated tooth. Like spicy foods, hot coffee also increases sensitivity in the treated tooth. It is therefore advisable to hold off on drinking hot coffee until at least the numbness in the mouth has worn off. Ingesting anything with a high temperature is also to be avoided while the mouth is still numb as it can be harmful to the yet unfeeling mouth.

Do I need to take antibiotics after a root canal?

After the anesthetic wears off, there may be a dull throbbing pain in the treated tooth. Antibiotics and painkillers can help avoid this. The dental professional who performed the root canal will be able to prescribe antibiotics or other pain medication as per need. The antibiotics take care of any lingering infection in the root canal, while painkillers aid with any post procedure pain.

Can I drive after a root canal?

Yes, at most there will be some numbness in the mouth but besides that there is no reason not to drive. Like after any regular filling procedure, the mouth will be numb for a while. If the patient has not had any trouble driving after prior dentist appointments involving teeth fillings, there should be no trouble in the case of a root canal treatment either.

Can I brush my teeth after a root canal?

One can brush and floss gently but flossing should be avoided if a temporary filling was placed in the space between teeth. Normal dental hygiene can be practiced once the tooth has been fully restored and there is no more discomfort.

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