Do you have a persistent pain in your tooth that won’t go away? Are your teeth sensitive to hot and cold beverages and food items, and every time you eat or drink something, it sends a tingling (not in a good way) sensation down your spine? Or have your teeth discolored significantly, or are broken, or are your gums swollen?
If any of these hold for you, it might be a good time to visit the dentist. In most cases, these are the symptoms of bad oral hygiene and would lead to a root canal treatment. Thus it would be an advisable option to look for a dentist who is a root canal specialist for your treatment. However, it is nothing to panic about because root canal treatments have become more and more common over time, owing partially to unkempt oral hygiene and to external factors like a trauma that you might have gone through or an infection. According to a study, nearly fifteen million people in America undergo root canal procedures every year. It is nothing to worry about if it is timely addressed: as the saying goes, a stitch in time saves nine. Ignoring it could lead to dangerous repercussions that one might have to face, so better be safe than sorry.
There are associated dangers post the root canal procedure that one needs to take care of: if not done correctly, it could lead to the development of infection in partially cleaned canals, extra canals that one’s tooth might have that can prove conducive for bacterial growth, etc. Keeping these things in mind, it thus becomes necessary to find the right root canal dentist for it. But let us not get ahead of ourselves and discuss the repercussions. Let’s begin with the basics.
WHAT IS A ROOT CANAL?
Anatomically speaking, teeth are not as hard as they appear to be. A tooth consists of layers. The outer portion of the teeth, which is hard, is known as the enamel. The inner layer which follows it: is made up of spongy and porous tissues known as the dentin. Finally, at the center of the tooth, there is a collection of soft tissues and hence is known as the pulp.
The pulp in the tooth contains the nerves and the blood vessels. These are known as the root or legs of the tooth. A tooth’s nerve has no primary role to play in its functioning. It performs the function of sense, that is, whether what is being eaten is hot or cold, etc. It contains cells, namely odontoblasts, that are responsible for keeping the tooth healthy.
The root canals travel from the tip of the tooth to the pulp. Any injury, trauma, or infection directly affects this region, thus causing a variety of sensations and discomfort. As the pulp is damaged and breaks down, the bacteria present will be able to multiply. Apart from this, the dying remnants of the pulp could also act as a source of infection. It could spread wide, if untreated, like the swelling of the face and neck, loss of bone around the tip of the root, etc.
Thus, to prevent this, a root canal by a root canal specialist is required.
SYMPTOMS OF NEEDING A ROOT CANAL
The associated symptoms that would indicate requiring a root canal procedure are, to say the least: observable. There would be a discomfort (which can range from mild to extreme) when you eat or when you drink. Tooth discoloration is one of the symptoms. A broken tooth, swollen gums, a foul smell to your breath are all symptoms of needing a root canal treatment. Sometimes a pus discharge is also visible, and thus it can be a symptom as well.
STEPS IN ROOT CANAL PROCEDURE
Root canal procedures require a prior visit to the dentist. He or she can assess the situation and extent of the damage. It would help determine the difficulty that would entail during the procedure. It would help you as well as the doctor both get prepared. The dentist might also opt to take an X-ray of the area and its surroundings to verify if the infection has spread to the other parts.
However, as scary as the name might seem, the procedure is relatively simple. To put it in a nutshell, the dentist needs to clear out the infected pulp from the affected teeth and fill in the canal. Patients who undergo the procedure usually have to get crowns after the procedure. To put more light on it, here are the steps followed by a root canal specialist for a root canal treatment:
STEP 1: PREPARATION OF THE AREA.
In this step, the patient’s part of the mouth or the affected teeth: is made numb. It is done so with the help of injections. These injections contain numbing agents such as anesthesia. It might not be necessary to give the anesthesia cause it might be the case that the nerve is dead anyways. But to put the patient at ease and take the safer route, many dentists opt to do it out of practice.
In the preparation stage, it is also imperative to protect the rest of the unaffected region. For this purpose, the dentist places a dam in the mouth. It helps in the isolation part of the process. The dam is a rubber sheet. It also helps in keeping the area dry from saliva.
STEP 2: ACCESSING THE AREA AND CLEANING IT.
To access the area of the root canal and the pulp chamber: a hole is drilled in the tooth. With the help of equipment, the dentist cleans the pulp and the bacteria. The equipment includes root canal files. These are present in a series of increasing diameters that are placed in the holes and are subsequently worked to the full length of the tooth to remove the remnants and scrub the sides of the tooth canal. Further, the dentists would use an antibacterial or an antiseptic solution to clean and disinfect the area. This step eliminates the bacteria and thus treats the infection. Sometimes, water or sodium hypochlorite is also used to cleanse the area.
STEP 3: SHAPING THE CANALS.
Once the mentioned steps are complete, it is time for the dentist to reshape the canal. For the completion of the procedure, it is imperative to fill the hole that was drilled. Before that, the dentist would make use of tiny instruments to shape the canals. It would prepare the tooth to receive the filling material that would be added later. After shaping, the canals are cleaned one more time to avoid leaving any scrap which might have ramifications later. Sometimes, the dentist might determine to seal the tooth at a later appointment, for instance, say a week. In such cases: a temporary filling is placed in the hole to keep the contaminants away and the access hole clean.
STEP 4: FILLING THE CANALS.
After shaping the canal, the dentist may decide upon the timeframe as to when he would fill the hole. It could be immediately after the procedure or a week later. The dentist would use a sealer paste and gutta-percha (a latex-based polymer) to fill the tooth due to its biologically inert nature along with its resilient and electrically non-conductive nature.
STEP 5: SEALING THE ACCESS HOLE.
It is imperative to seal the tooth after a root canal treatment to prevent any further bacterial attack. A material such as an amalgam or composite is used for the purpose. Sometimes, it might happen that the tooth is not strong enough to support restoration on its own. For this purpose, the dentist would provide a post in a canal to strengthen the tooth. Usually, teeth that are severely damaged require posts.
STEP 6: PRECAUTIONARY MEASURES.
Once the procedure is complete and the patient is ready to go home, the dentist might prescribe medications or antibiotics. These medications are responsible for killing the rest of the remaining bacteria that might be left. It is normal to have a sense of discomfort following the root canal treatment for a few days. For it, post-treatment instructions would be provided by your root canal dentist.
STEP 7: ADDING THE CROWN.
Besides a post, a dentist could also use a crown for protection purposes and restore it to complete health. It helps in adding extra strength and stability to the tooth. A permanent crown curated as per your existing set of teeth. It would further help to regain the chewing prowess of a tooth.
Q1) What are some of the measures to take to prevent root canal infection after the procedure?
- Brush and floss your teeth twice a day.
- Follow the guidelines set forth by the dentist regarding post-treatment care.
- Be aware and reach out to your root canal dentist if you have signs of infection.
- In the initial stages, it would be advisable to use a gentle mouthwash. In the latter part, you could shift to anyone that you like.
- Do not forget to get your crown replacement from the dentist after the root canal procedure.
Q2) Can infection in one tooth spread to other?
The nature of infection remains constant, even if it is in the mouth. The infection might spread to other areas of the mouth. The longer you wait, the more it can spread and cause a higher level of discomfort and uneasiness. That is why it is advisable to visit a root canal dentist as soon as possible and get it looked at.
Q3) Are there any alternatives to root canal therapy?
To avoid a visit to a root canal dentist, the best advice would be: prevention is better than cure. Try to keep your teeth naturally healthy to prevent any sort of infection. You could try eating a variety of food to provide the necessary nutrition to maintain the health of the teeth. Medically, the only alternative to a root canal treatment would be to get the tooth extracted.
Q4) What is the cost of a root canal treatment?
The cost of a root canal treatment can vary from case to case based on the severity. However, an estimated cost of a root canal treatment is $500 to $1500 for a molar.
Q5) Why choose an endodontist?
Endodontists are specialists who have additional years of expertise beyond dental school. They use state-of-the-art technology and would be the best option to cater to your needs.
Thus, it is necessary to get your teeth looked at if you have the slightest of discomforts like pain or an infection. Find the best root canal dentist for you. Fear not if you live in Georgia for: us here at Healthy Smiles of Georgia have got you covered. Book your appointment today!