Before going into further details about the basics of the root canal process, let us first explain what a root canal actually is. It’s a dental treatment used for saving and repairing a badly decayed tooth or a tooth that has been seriously infected.
During the root canal procedure, your dentist would remove the pulp and nerve, clean the inner walls of your tooth, and seal it. If the treatment is not done at the right time, the infection would spread to the tissue around your tooth and lead to formation of abscesses.
Why the process is called root canal treatment?
Dentists use this term for the procedure as it involves cleaning the “root canal” i.e. the natural canal inside a tooth. The nerve of a tooth lies inside this cavity and the pulp chamber or pulp is the soft portion within the cavity.
Why root canal is done?
When the pulp or nerve tissue of a tooth gets damaged, it starts to break down and becomes a breeding ground for bacteria. If not treated, the bacteria would keep multiplying and cause abscessed tooth. For those who don’t know, abscesses are pus-filled pockets that are formed at the root of an infected tooth. Other than causing abscess formation, infection inside a tooth’s root canal can also
• Bone loss around the root
• Swelling that can spread to adjacent body parts like head, neck, face, etc.
• Drainage problems generating from the infected root
The root canal procedure explained
To get your root canal done effectively you may need to visit the dentist’s office more than once. The process is carried out by an endodontist or root canal dentist. Endodontists are professionals specializing in diagnosis and treatment of injuries and diseases of human dental nerves and pulp. You should ideally visit an endodontist with several years of experience. This will increase your chances of having a successful root canal and also eliminate possibilities of post-treatment complications.
Below are the steps of root canal:
Step 1: Your dentist would first perform a dental X-ray of the damaged tooth for finding out the exact condition of the root canal and determine whether there’s any infection in the surrounding bones. Once the exact condition of the tooth and its surrounding areas is detected, the dentist would do the needful for beginning the root canal process.
Step 2: He would begin by using local anesthesia for numbing the surrounding areas of the tooth. As the nerve is already dead, some dentist might decide against applying anesthesia. However, most prefer anesthetizing the area for ensuring that patient is feeling relaxed and comfortable.
Step 3: It’s important that the area to be treated remains completely free of saliva or mucus during the treatment. So, to keep the region dry, the dentist would place a latex/rubber dam around your tooth.
Step 4: The dentist would drill a tiny access hole in your tooth. He would then use root canal files for removing the infected pulp, damaged nerve tissue, and all the accumulated debris from the root canal. Dentists use files of different diameters during the procedure. The debris accumulating on the walls of your root canal get scraped and scrubbed using these files. During the procedure, your dentist would periodically flush the debris away using sodium hypochlorite or water.
Step 5: Once the cleaning process is over, the dentist would seal the tooth. While some dentists would ask patients to wait for a week to get your tooth sealed, there are others who prefer sealing the tooth just after cleaning it out.
Your dentist may ask you to wait for a few days before sealing the treated tooth as he has put certain medications inside the dental cavity for clearing the infection. In such situations, he would place a temporary filling in your tooth’s exterior hole for keeping out contaminants like food particles and saliva between appointments.
On the day of the following appointment, the tooth would be filled using gutta percha (a rubber compound) and sealer paste. The two substances are combined and placed inside the root canal. The tooth’s access hole (the one that was drilled for beginning the treatment) will also be closed using a filling.
Step 6: This is the final step of root canal and involves the tooth’s restoration. In most cases, the tooth requiring root canal is severely decayed, or boasts a huge filling, or has a crown. So, for keeping the tooth duly protected, you must restore it once the root canal process is over. If you don’t carry out proper restoration, the tooth might fail to function normally and may even break. Talk to your dentist to find out what kind of dental procedures he would want to perform for restoring your tooth.
Is root canal painful?
You will often hear people say that root canal procedure is extremely painful. However, the fact is that you are unlikely to experience any pain when your dentist would drill a hole or clean the cavity. That’s because anesthesia will be applied before carrying out those dental procedures. Even if anesthesia is not applied, you will not feel too much pain as the dental nerve is already damaged. Your chances of experiencing some pain would be there when the dentist would place the filling inside your tooth.
After care for patients undergoing a root canal
Your tooth might remain sensitive for some days following your root canal. This happens typically due to tissue inflammation, which is pretty normal. Such inflammation is more common among patients who had tooth infection and/or pain before undergoing the procedure. Controlling such discomfort or sensitivity is easy; taking a few doses of non-prescription pain killers like naproxen or ibuprofen is often enough.
Patients usually lead normal life from the very next day. However, if the dentist has asked you to wait for some time before sealing your treated tooth, it would be wise to avoid using it for chewing. This will prevent recontamination and will also stop breaking of fragile tooth. However, don’t forget to gently brush the tooth and floss regularly. This will help is keeping infection at bay
For a more simplify overview of Root Canals, this video should help.