Understanding Emergency Root Canal Treatment
Root canal is probably the treatment that has the most feared reputation due to the complexity involved and the pain associated with it, but what does root canal actually involve? This section will explain the procedure, and outline what you can expect to happen during the treatment.
What does a root canal involve?
The dental procedure of Endodontics is more commonly known as ‘root canal’. This refers to a method of removing the inner pulp of the tooth through the root canal. This procedure is used by dentists when the pulp has become infected, this will prevent the infection from spreading to other areas of the face or resulting in further infection.
What can cause the pulp to be infected?
The pulp is one of the parts that make up a tooth. In total there are three key parts of the tooth. The first part is the outer enamel which is tough and designed to act as a shield to the more susceptible areas of the tooth, such as the dentin. Dentin is the second part of the tooth and also serves as a protective layer although it is softer enamel. Lastly the centre part of the tooth is known as the pulp. This soft area is a union of blood vessels and nerve endings that sustain the tooth. Subsequently if the pulp is infected, the tooth itself can become at risk.
Regular visits to the dentist can prevent the infection which is caused by bacteria in plaque reacting with the carbohydrates and sugars in foods to produce an acid which can eat away at the enamel. When this decay reaches the inner pulp it can cause infection.
What can infection do to the tooth?
When the inner pulp is infected there is a serious threat to the tooth itself. If the infection is caught early and treated by being filled, the pulp can be saved without the need for a root canal.
On the other hand, when the pulp has become seriously infected, it is necessary for it to be removed completely to reduce the risk of further infection. However, if the pulp is badly infected, then the pulp itself may need to be removed. This is required to protect the tooth from re-occurring infection in the future. If the pulp needs to be removed completely, root canal treatment is required.
Are there symptoms?
You may notice that the affected tooth is unusually sensitive to cold or hot foods and drinks. However, the most apparent sign of infection is often a throbbing toothache that feels deep rooted and will not go away. As the infection develops within the pulp of the tooth, the nerve endings will be placed under pressure as the amount of fluid in the tooth increases in the tooth.
If left untreated, an abscess can form in the infected pulp of the tooth. The pus from the infection collects in this area and again increase the pressure and the pain within the tooth.
If you are suffering with an abscess, you may also experience a high temperature and feel as if you have a fever. This is common when you have an infection anywhere in your body.
What is involved in a root canal?
A root canal is designed to protect the function of the tooth by removing the infected pulp. This procedure takes placed using a local anaesthetic over a course of visits to your dentist, where they will drill the tooth so that infection is exposed. The dentist will then scrape to remove the infection and the pulp through the root canal of the tooth. If the infection is quite severe, this may need to be done through several root canals to be certain that all of the infection is eradicated.
Are there any complications?
Most patients that undergo a root canal procedure will find that it is a similar experience to other dental work, like have a crown fitted or a filling. It is rare that there are any major complications. There is normally some discomfort and soreness in the mouth in the days after the procedure is performed.
Due to the nature of the root canal treatment, the source of nutrients and blood to the tooth (the pulp) is being removed. The tooth will essentially no longer be alive but will be able to continue to function as a tooth nonetheless.
As previously explained, the purpose of the root canal treatment is to maintain the use of the tooth. Your dentist will endeavour to preserve the tooth so if the infection has reached the pulp, the next step will be to remove all the infected area to reduce any further risk to the tooth.
After removing the infected pulp from the inside of the tooth, your dentist will then substitute it with Gutta Percha, which is a neutral substance. This will mean that the inner part of the tooth has been filled and sealed from infection, whilst the tooth itself still has roots that hold it to the jawbone.
Finally, your dentist will normally advise that a crown is placed over the treated tooth to protect the biting surface and the remaining tooth. This is because during the root canal procedure the tooth will be drilled to expose the pulp and infection – and this can mean that the strength, structure and outside of the tooth are jeopardised
Is root canal treatment always successful?
Although the procedure is straightforward, very rarely, root canal treatment can be unsuccessful. This is due to the complexity of the root system in some patient’s teeth. In these cases, the decay is not always completely removed.
Sometimes unsuccessful root canal treatment can be because the crown was not cemented over the tooth adequately, or was not sufficient to keep bacteria out of the tooth.
Lastly, it can be due to poor oral hygiene. Bacteria and plaque can build up on the treated tooth just as it can build up on any tooth. This is why it is crucial you visit your dentist for regular check-ups.