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Root Canal Treatment

What Is Root Canal Treatment?

A root canal treatment is required if the dental pulp (or innermost layer) of your tooth has become infected or inflamed and cannot be saved. This situation would normally arise as a result of advanced decay, a deep filling or damage to the tooth. Sometimes it can also be the result of gum disease.

If there is an infection in the pulp of your tooth the main symptoms will be pain and increased sensitivity to hot or cold. You may notice some discolouration in the tooth or your gum may swell and feel tender or give a metallic taste. Sometimes patients experience no symptoms at all.

A root canal treatment is a successful, safe and long-term way of helping to save a tooth which would otherwise need to be extracted. During the procedure the dental pulp is completely removed, the tooth and root canals are cleaned and filled. Finally the tooth is covered with a filling or crown to protect it.

What is dental pulp?

Your teeth comprise of several layers- a top (enamel) layer, a dentine layer and a hollow centre containing the dental pulp. This dental pulp which contains nerves, blood vessels and connective tissue runs from the dentine layer right down into the root canals of your tooth connecting your tooth with the gum.

When this pulp is infected it begins to die but bacteria continues to travel down into the gum causing swelling and pain. Left untreated this could result in a painful abscess or even bone regression and tooth loss.

What is involved in a root canal treatment?

Root canal treatment normally takes place over several visits. The length of treatment will depend on your case and the tooth that is being treated. Front teeth normally contain just one root canal whereas the back teeth can have up to four- so will take longer to treat. If more than one appointment is required they will normally be spaced over weekly intervals. Your tooth will be covered and temporarily restored in between appointments.

First stage of treatment– Under a local anaesthetic a hole will be drilled in the tooth and a very small file used to remove the pulp.
Once emptied, the root canals will be shaped (to ensure there is enough space for the filling) and flushed with an anti-bacterial solution to kill any germs.
Second stage of treatment– the root canals will be completely filled with a material called gutta-percha to seal the tooth and prevent bacteria from entering in the future.
Third stage- The root canal filling will be sealed in place with a permanent filling or crown. This will help restore the tooth to its correct shape and allow it to function properly.

Will a root canal treatment hurt?

Your root canal treatment will take place under a local anaesthetic so should feel just like you are having a normal filling. You may experience some slight discomfort or gum swelling in the days afterwards but this can be relieved with ibuprofen or paracetamol. If the pain does persist then contact your Dentist.

Many people are scared at the thought of a root canal treatment as it is often considered a painful procedure. Bear in mind that the pain you will be experiencing as a result of infected pulp or a tooth abscess will be much more painful. It really is worth getting the issue sorted to avoid the need for a complete removal of the tooth.

How to care for your tooth following a root canal

Following your root canal treatment you should be careful not to bite down too hard on the tooth so that you don’t damage it.

In order to keep all of your teeth healthy it is important to maintain good oral hygiene- brushing and flossing your teeth for 3 minutes, twice a day. Avoid eating too many sugary foods and visit your Dentist for regular check-ups.

If looked after properly your root canal treated tooth should last for many years.

Don’t I need the dental pulp?

When you are small and your teeth are growing the dental pulp is vital as it helps them to develop properly by carrying nutrients to and from the gum. However, once your teeth are fully grown the only real purpose of the pulp is to alert you to any damage or infection. Therefore it is possible to remove it without any problems.

Cleaning and filling the canal chambers prevents re-infection while the new filling or crown restores look and function. Provided the tooth is looked after you shouldn’t experience any problems although you may notice that your root filled tooth becomes slightly discoloured over time.

Can’t I just have my tooth removed?

Unless absolutely necessary at the Edinburgh Dental Studio we would always advise against the extraction of a tooth.

They is because of the numerous personal and practical issues that can arise as a result of a missing tooth or teeth:

  • Where a tooth is missing a lack of stimulation on the gum can cause bone shrinkage.
  • One or more gaps can cause problems with eating and drinking.
  • One or more gaps can affect your speech.
  • If missing teeth are highly visible, self-confidence can be greatly affected.
  • Gaps can increased your risk of gum disease and tooth decay.
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