Why Would I Need Root Canal Treatment?
Root canal treatment can save an infected or otherwise badly-damaged tooth. It entails removal of tooth pulp, and sometimes the nerve, and cleaning, filling and sealing the affected area.
The term "root canal" refers to the canal inside a tooth root. It’s also used to describe endodontic treatment. “Endodontic” is Greek for “inside a tooth”.
Root canals contain nerves as well as blood vessels. In developed adult teeth, these nerves serve no purpose other than sensing stimuli like heat or cold. This is why removal of a nerve can be part of root canal treatment for infection or decay in the tooth pulp.
A root canal may be needed to repair damage to tooth pulp from:
• A cavity that has penetrated the outer layers of a tooth.
• Physical injury to a tooth – chips or cracks in teeth can result in tooth decay.
• Repeated dental treatments to the same tooth.
If you’ve been experiencing problems with a tooth, you may be wondering: “Why would I need root canal treatment?”.
According to the American Association of Endodontists1 (AAE), the most common symptom indicating you may need a root canal is pain, which can fluctuate from moderate to severe over the course of a day.
Other signs you may need a root canal include:
• Prolonged sensitivity after hot drinks and food.
• Darkening of a tooth, indicating the nerve is dying.
• Tender, swollen gums.
In some cases, there may be no symptoms that root canal treatment is necessary.
When Root Canal Treatment Becomes Necessary
To better understand why you would need root canal treatment2, it helps to know a little about a tooth’s anatomy.
Pulp is the soft tissue encased by layers of enamel and dentin. Enamel is the protective outer surface of a tooth. It’s considered the hardest mineral material in the body – even stronger than bone. Below the enamel is dentin, a bony substance forming most of a tooth.
Pulp runs from a tooth’s crown to the tip of the root. Here, it connects to the tissues surrounding the root, so it’s important during a tooth’s development. However, once a tooth has fully grown, it can survive without pulp, getting nourishment from the surrounding tissues.
Root canal treatment is necessary if the pulp becomes inflamed or infected. Without treatment, tooth pulp issues can result in an abscess that may spread infection to other parts of your body, posing a significant hazard to your wellbeing. Once the pulp is destroyed it cannot regenerate, and the infected tooth will have to be extracted.
The Root Canal Treatment Procedure
Endodontists – specialists in root canal treatments – save millions of teeth every year by:
• Removing infected pulp.
• Meticulously cleaning, disinfecting and shaping the inside of the root canal.
• Filling and sealing the space.
The American Association of Endodontists says root canal treatment is no more painful than a routine filling. The root canal procedure typically entails:
• X-rays to locate and evaluate the extent of infection or damage.
• Local anesthetic to numb the affected tooth.
• Drilling a hole in the tooth and using special instruments to remove the affected pulp and nerve tissue.
• Cleaning the tooth.
• Sealing the tooth with a rubber compound.
• Placing a filling over the access hole.
You will then need a crown to protect your tooth and restore it to full function. This may require going back to your general dentist. However, thanks to advances in technology, some root canal experts can offer a same-day crown service, using CAD (Computer Aided Design) and CAM (Computer Aided Manufacture).
Advantages of Root Canal Treatment
Benefits of root canal treatment include:
• Safeguarding general health. Dental infection can result in more dangerous issues as it travels to other areas of the body.
• Less costly than having to replace a tooth with a bridge or an implant.
• Elimination of pain and other symptoms, such as tooth sensitivity.
• Improved appearance. Your crown will blend in with your other teeth to preserve your smile.
• Protection of other teeth from excessive wear.
• Strong bite force.
After a Root Canal
After your root canal treatment, an endodontist will advise you on how to help ensure faster healing with less discomfort. These measures may include:
• Avoiding hard, crunchy or sticky foods for a while.
• Using over-the-counter pain relief such as ibuprofen.
• Maintaining good oral hygiene.
• Getting regular check-ups to monitor the condition of the treated tooth and your overall oral health.
• Having regular professional cleanings.
Can Root Canal Treatment Save My Tooth?
Most teeth can be saved by root canal treatment. Possible exceptions are teeth with a badly-fractured root or lacking sufficient bone support. However, advances in endodontics are making it possible to save more and more teeth. In most cases, a tooth that has had root canal treatment will, with proper care, last as long as natural teeth.
Root canal treatment is relatively straightforward and the recovery process usually uncomplicated. However, it’s a time-consuming procedure requiring a high level of skill.
Root canal procedures are reported to have a 95 percent success rate. Usually, only a local anesthetic is needed and the treatment feels no different than having an ordinary filling. There may be some soreness afterward but this should gradually ease over time.
In the past, root canal treatment would often lead to darkening of the tooth. Nowadays, though, with modern techniques, this is generally not a problem. If there is any discoloration, treatments are available to restore a natural appearance.
The best person to answer the question “Why would I need root canal treatment?” is your dentist or an endodontist, who will be able to tell you whether a root canal can provide effective treatment for your problem.
The specialized techniques, advanced training and cutting-edge technologies of endodontists enable you to get the most effective and highest quality care should you need root canal treatment to restore your natural smile and ability to eat normally.