Root Canal Treatment

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A tooth is made up of several layers with a nerve at the core of its structure. Stimulation of this nerve is what causes the hot and cold sensations that you may experience when eating and drinking certain foods.

Simple sensitivity which is only when eating and drinking can often be treated by special sensitive toothpastes or desensitisers applied by your dentist. You will often have to change your cleaning methods also and maybe dietary habits if these are part of the problem. A lot of sensitivity issues need to be managed over a length of time rather than a quick fix solution.

If pain becomes more prolonged and intense this may indicate that the nerve within the tooth has become damaged beyond repair. It is important to see you dentist for a diagnosis and pain management if you suspect this has occurred.

What can damage my tooth nerve?

There are several causes including:

When is root canal needed?

Root canal is needed when the nerve (pulp) within the tooth has been damaged and bacterial infection has resulted. The bacteria will often multiply and allow the infection to spread outside the tooth into the jaw bone or gum. The symptoms will often include:

As the infection spreads these initial symptoms may disappear and be replaced with:

It is important that treatment is not delayed or left too long as the chance that root canal with be successful will diminish. Effectively at this stage the choice of treatment will either be root canal treatment or to extract the tooth.

What does root canal involve?

In order to treat the infection the dentist will need to gain access to the core of the tooth which contains the infected dental nerve (pulp).

A local anaesthetic is administered and a rubber sheet is placed around the tooth for protection against contamination and safety for the patient.

The nerve is removed with cleaning irrigants and hand / rotary files. Please bear in mind that this is a time consuming process to ensure all of the infected tissue is removed.

Following cleaning of the root canal space a plastic seal is placed within and a filling or crown will be recommended by your dentist according to how damaged the tooth is.

Please bear in mind the treatment may involve several sessions with your dentists and time intervals discussed. The process cannot be rushed.

Root canal is not a guaranteed treatment by any means and is considered a last resort to try and heal an infected tooth. There are procedural complications and post root canal issues which will be discussed in detail on a case by case basis. If your root canal treatment cannot be performed on the NHS then this will be explained and an appropriate referral to a specialist root canal surgeon made or a tooth extraction arranged.

Is root canal painful?

The answer to this depends upon the stage of nerve irritation – early stages of infection may be painful but a local anaesthetic will be administered and the treatment may need to be done in stages. When the nerve has completely died then the procedure may not elicit pain immediately.

Post- operatively you may experience pain and /or swelling. If this does occur and is not managed by pain relief then it is important to contact your dentist.

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