Actually, a root canal is the natural inner cavity of a tooth where the dental pulp chamber and nerve lies. However, in dentistry, a root canal is a type of dental treatment that is used to fix or restore a tooth that has been badly infected or decayed. A root canal is a treatment given to an infected tooth to repair and save it from decaying or being lost. When this dental treatment is carried out, the pulp and nerve are both removed and the inside of the tooth is properly cleaned and sealed. Without root canal treatment, the tissue surrounding the tooth will get infected and may lead to abscesses.
It should be noted that the tooth nerve does not serve any vital importance to dental health. It commences its sensory function only after the emergence of the tooth. It only provides the sensation of cold and hot. Its presence or absence does not in any way affect the daily functioning of the tooth. So, if it is removed, the teeth would still perform its functions.
Why Is the Removal of the Dental Pulp Necessary?
When the dental pulp or nerve tissue is damaged, it decomposes and bacteria would begin to grow and multiply in the dental pulp chamber. The presence of these bacteria and other decayed materials can lead to inflammation or infection and subsequently an abscessed tooth. For instance, when the infection spreads to the roots of the tooth, an abscess would occur, which is a pus-filled pocket that is formed toward the end of the tooth root. Aside from causing an abscess, infections in the tooth root canal can also cause:
- A drainage problem extending from the tooth root. The infection would cause a hole in the side of the tooth which drains into the gums or into the cheek and subsequently into the skin.
- Abnormal swelling that may spread from the mouth to other parts of the face, head or neck.
- Loss of bone towards the tip of the root
What Causes Damage to The Dental Pulp and Nerve in The First Place?
The dental pulp and nerve can become inflamed, irritated, infected, and damaged as a result of the following: a trauma to the face, a crack or chip in the tooth, large fillings, repeated dental procedures, and deep decay, etc.
What Happens During a Root Canal Treatment?
Root canal treatment can be carried out by either a dentist or an endodontist. The choice of either option depends on the difficulty level of the root canal treatment to be carried out on the tooth and also on the general comfort level of the dentist that would handle the case. However, discuss with your dentist, he/she should be able to suggest the best suitable option to carry out root canal treatment on your particular case.
The first step during the root canal treatment involves taking an X-ray to determine the shape of the root canals and also to know if any of the surrounding bones show any sign of inflammation or infection.
After this, your dentist or endodontist as the case may be will use a local anesthesia on the area to be treated. It is not really necessary to use an anesthesia as the nerve in that area is supposedly dead. However, some dentist or endodontist still prefer to use anesthetize so as to make the patient be at ease and more relaxed.
The next thing is to keep the tooth area dry and void of saliva. This is done by placing a rubber dam around the tooth. An access hole is bored into the tooth, after which the pulp is removed together with the bacteria, decayed soft tissue, and other related debris. The root canal files are used in the cleaning out process. Several root canal files with varying diameters are each inserted into the access hole to scrape and scrub the full sides of the root canals. Water and sodium hypochlorite are periodically used to flush away the debris. Once the root canal is well cleaned, it is then sealed. While some dentist may wait for about a week before sealing up the tooth so as to apply medication inside the tooth, other dentists seal the tooth the same day after cleaning.
Should in case the root canal treatment is not completed in a day, the dentist would have to place a temporary filling to cover the access hole so as to prevent contaminants like food and saliva from getting in before next dental visits.
Sealing the tooth is in two phases – the interior of the tooth and the exterior of the tooth. Sealing the interior requires the use of a sealer paste and a rubber compound called gutta percha, which are inserted into the root canal. For the exterior sealing, a filling is used.
After sealing, the tooth may undergo a further restoration process. Hence, a dental crown or other necessary restoration needed to restore it to its full function, prevent it from breaking, and protect it would be given. Your dentist would all necessities with you.
How Painful Is the Root Canal Treatment?
It is well known that the root canal treatment involves very painful procedures. Most patients who have undergone the treatment testified that the procedure itself is not as much pain as having a filling placed.
Are There Any Alternatives to A Root Canal?
The best alternative to the root canal treatment is saving your natural tooth. Having your natural tooth enables you to eat various diets needed to maintain proper nutrition. And in the case of an infectious or decaying tooth, the root canal treatment is the best choice of treatment.
However, the only alternative to having a root canal treatment is removing the tooth and replacing it with either an implant, a bridge, or a removable partial denture. This would restore the chewing ability and prevent the shifting of adjacent teeth. The truth of the matter is, all these alternatives are more expensive and require more treatment time than undergoing the root canal procedure. More so, these alternatives require that additional procedures be carried out on adjacent teeth and supporting tissues.
Are there any Prevention for Root Canal Treatment?
The inflammation or infection of the dental pulp and nerve is as a result of a crack or chip in the tooth, deep decay, or repeated dental treatments on a tooth or large fillings. Hence, observing good oral health practices, such as brushing your teeth twice daily, flossing at least once daily, and regular dental visits would prevent or at least reduce the need for a root canal treatment.