root canal treatment

We first have to get rid of the notion that root canal treatments are painful; technology has advanced way beyond that time when procedures had to be painful. The procedure is about 95% successful and saved teeth can sometimes last a lifetime when well taken care of. This procedure is usually done when the tooth becomes cracked, infected or decayed and in order to save it, the dentist offers to repair it by removing the nerves and pulp from inside the tooth and replacing it with a sterile rubber-like substance known as ‘gutta percha’. After a suitable interval, the tooth is closed permanently and an artificial crown fitted on top of it to increase its life.

The root canal treatment (RCT) is also known as an endodontic treatment and becomes necessary when the center of the tooth which is called the pulp, becomes infected or inflamed; the presence of a large cavity could also damage the tooth’s roots sufficiently to warrant a root canal procedure.

During the procedure, the dentist first makes the area around the tooth numb before creating an opening in the crown of the tooth. The procedure involves drilling through the tooth’s outer layers of enamel and dentine to reach the soft tissue within called the pulp. The pulp is where the blood vessels and nerves are found and this is what is removed and the inside of the tooth cleaned and sealed, thereby effectively killing the tooth; what this means is that there will be no more feeling in the tooth.

If this procedure isn’t done, the infection might spread further, leading to abscess formations. An abscess is a pus-filled pocket at the base of the tooth’s roots. Aside from the abscess, the infection can also spread to the bones around the root of the tooth; it can also induce inflammation and swelling around the cheeks, chin, neck or head.

While the procedure is still in progression and the permanent filling hasn’t yet been placed along with the crown, you would do well to avoid chewing from that side of the mouth. It will also reduce chances of a re-infection or prevent the tooth from fracturing as it is still under repair.

Recovery from an RCT usually takes about 3 days to about 2 weeks before the pain completely subsides. Usually, mild over-the-counter pain killers are sufficient to control the pain of normal tissue inflammation and patients can resume their normal activities within a day or so. A few precautions to be observed after an RCT include avoiding chewing hard foods with the affected tooth, quitting smoking and chewing tobacco and observing good oral hygiene.

A side-effect of RCT is that the tooth doesn’t have its original strength and can be prone to fractures when over-stressed. The tooth may also become slightly discoloured, but this can be bleached off. In very rare cases, the tooth may become re-infected or the RCT may fail..

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