If your dentist has told you that you require root canal therapy you may be wondering what to expect. Just the word ‘root canal’ can strike fear into the hearts of many, but the reality of the situation is most patients are in significant discomfort until the time at which the root canal is performed. This relief can be profound, particularly where we are dealing with a deep infection inside the tooth and nerve itself.
Signs of infection that may warrant root canal therapy include large visible cavities in the area, and a change in the level of sensitivity of the tooth to either hot or cold foods. A foul taste emanating from the area typically implies drainage. The taste can be either metallic or bitter in nature and indicates weeping pus from the gums. Alternatively, the presence of a pustule in the gum around the tooth can indicate a localized infection. Your dentist will likely perform x-rays to help bring awareness and understanding to the level of infection within the tissues.
Root canal therapy is an endodontic treatment which has the effect of saving a natural tooth from the likelihood of needing to be extracted, and to prevent ongoing systemic infection. The intention of the therapy is to keep the natural tooth in place along the dental arch while excavating the infected inner pulp and the nerve tissue which has become inflamed and painful as a result of infection. Some root canals are required as a result of other compromises to the tooth structure such as cracks or breaks.
Leaving an infected tooth to go without a root canal is likely to cause death of the tooth and potential infection of the bone and blood. Patients experiencing signs of infection maybe surprised when the pain spontaneously subsides. Although it may seem to the patient that the infection has resolved, the more likely event is that the infection in the inner pulp of the tooth and nerve has finally killed the tooth. Once the tooth is dead for all intents and purposes the infection can progress into the gingival tissue by way of the root system without further discomfort because the nerve on the inside of the tooth is no longer a functioning nerve.
What to Expect
Since root canal therapy is performed using a local anesthetic you will not be in pain during the procedure. In fact, root canal therapy can often be enjoyed while watching your favorite program on television while your dentist gets to work saving your tooth.
Your dentist will begin the procedure once you have been effectively anesthetized. The dentist creates an opening in the tooth from which the inner infection and soft tooth soft tissue associated with the open nerve is removed. Once the inside of the tooth has been removed you are effectively left with an outer shell and hollow inner tooth. In order to effectively allow your tooth to resume its function in effective chewing, the tooth requires that's a structure be rebuilt and fortified.
This process begins with injecting gutta-percha into the inner cavity of the tooth to seal the tooth and prevent any additional introduction of bacterial matter to the inside of the clean and sanitized tooth.
Although there are some instances in which a filling compound can be used to close off a root canal effectively, it is far more common to place a crown over the tooth once a root canal has been performed. While the gutta-percha has the effect of providing structural reinforcement inside of the tooth, a crown will provide additional support to the structure of the tooth and ensure that the tooth can remain a healthy and functional part of your oral health.
In order to prepare your tooth for a crown your dentist will shape the tooth while it is still under the effect of freezing. Shaping this tooth allows it to fit nicely inside the crown once it is made and can be cemented in place to cover the entire tooth from the crown of the tooth to the gum line. The crown effectively provides protection against the effects of bacteria and acidity within the mouth and helps to ensure the strength of the tooth. Your dentist will provide a temporary crown to be worn while your crown is being made. When you return to the dentist at a separate appointment, you will be frozen again to ensure your comfort while the temporary crown is removed, and the permanent crown is set in place. Your crown can be made in the shape and color likeness of your natural tooth to ensure a seamless aesthetic.
Caring for your Crown
While your crown is resilient to the effects of decay, it remains important to maintain excellent oral hygiene to reduce the likelihood of gum disease or periodontitis going forward, which can cause the gums to recede from the root of the tooth and expose the root to further damage by decay. Continuing to brush and floss daily is crucial in avoiding complications associated with bacterial overgrowth and soft tissue implications.