Often, when the words “Root Canal” is mentioned to patients, unpleasant images instantly flash through their minds. But what it comes down to is simply, a lack of understanding of what root canal treatment actually entails. Let’s discuss this further…
1. What is a Root Canal treatment?
Firstly, what patient’s don’t realise is that if I am to offer a root canal as a treatment option, it means that I am suggesting that this tooth CAN BE SAVED! Often fillings are needed when the cavity only “outside layers” of your teeth (ie. your enamel and dentine). However, once the bacteria continues to progress deeper, it gets closer to the pulp (the nerve tissue). Once inside, the nerve becomes infected and can cause severe tooth ache.
A root canal would simply be removing that infected nerve tissue, cleaning it thoroughly and sealed so no further bacteria can enter the tooth.
2. But don’t root canals hurt?
A root canal, as I describe it, is basically a filling done over a longer period of time. The tooth is still anesthetized, so like a filling, you won’t feel a thing! Understanding the root canal process is the first step in easing your own nerves (not the tooth’s!)
3. But don’t root canals take a lot of dental visits?
Often with root canal treatment, one appointment is required to clean out the infected tissue. Once all the bacteria is cleaned out, a medicament is placed into the tooth to settle the tooth down for a 2-4 weeks. In that period, a temporary filling sits over the tooth, to allow for normal function.
Once that’s done, a second appointment is required to remove the temporary filling and seal off the root canal(s).
4. But I heard from my friend that their root canal fell apart- which then led to her removing the tooth anyway!
The success rate of root canal therapy is in the high 90% . The problem with “root canals” isn’t so much the actual root canal treatment itself, it is in the remaining tooth structure that lies on top. For a tooth to need root canal, usually the decay is quite deep to involve the nerve tissue.
With the amount of damage the tooth has had, only little good tooth structure remains. Also, after “hollowing out” the contents of the tooth, the tooth can be quite brittle and prone to fracture. Especially in molar teeth, it is advisable to place a custom porcelain crown over the tooth to protect the root canal. This way, rather than placing fillings into the tooth, bonding it to very thin tooth structure, we would be “capping” it with a “helmet-like” structure on top of the tooth.
5. But isn’t pulling the tooth better than getting a Root Canal?
There is nothing better than keeping your own natural teeth. It is our job as dentists to do everything we can to keep your teeth for as long as we can for proper eating and chewing functions. Although there are many options in restoring missing teeth eg. dentures, partial dentures, bridges, implants etc… however these alternatives can often be more expensive than saving your tooth with root canal, as well as inconvenient.
I hope that has helped clear out a few questions about root canal. If you’re still unsure about anything… please feel free to drop us a line!