MYTHS AND FACTS ABOUT ROOT CANAL TREATMENT
Oral Hygiene is one of basic and the most important part of dental care. Being aware of the various treatments in dentistry can be the first step in improving one’s oral health. Nowadays, because of one’s bad eating habits and fast lifestyle many a time one may forget to keep proper oral hygiene. For various reasons, one’s teeth can get damaged. One of the methods that are used to save one’s tooth is by root canal treatment.
“Endo” is the Greek word for “inside” and “odont” is Greek for “tooth.” Endodontic treatment treats the inside of the tooth. Root canal treatment is one type of endodontic treatment. Before delving into what a root canal treatment is, let’s understand the structure of a simple tooth. The tooth has an outer layer which all of us know as the white enamel. Underneath the enamel, there is a hard layer called dentin and beneath that is a soft tissue called pulp. This soft tissue carries blood vessels, nerves and connective tissue that helps the growth of the root of the tooth in its development. A fully developed tooth can survive without the pulp, as the tooth is nourished by the tissues surrounding it. “Root canal” is the cavity in the center of the tooth. The pulp is the soft tissue that is inside the root canal.
Sometimes, the insides of a tooth, especially the pulp can become inflamed or infected. It may be due to one or more of the following reasons
- The decay of the tooth
- Repeated dental procedures
- Faulty crowns
- Crack in the tooth
- Trauma to the tooth
When the pulp is damaged, the bacteria begin to multiply in the root canal and can cause an infection or an abscessed tooth. An abscess is a pus-filled pocket that forms at the end of the roots. It occurs when the infection spreads way past the roots of the tooth. The infection can also cause:
- Gum might feel tender
- Pain that can range from severe to mild
- Swelling that may spread to face, neck, or head
- Bone loss near the root
- Discoloration of the tooth
- Prolonged sensitivity to hot food or liquids
- Drainage problems where the hole can form at the side of the teeth causing leakage into the gums or through the cheeks into the skin
Root canal treatment is performed to save the natural teeth, instead of extracting it. The treatment relieves pain and makes the teeth healthy again. The procedure itself is not that painful and is very effective. There are many reasons as to why it is preferred to save the natural tooth than extracting it. Some of these are:
- Normal biting force
- Natural appearance
- Protects adjacent teeth from strain
Root canal treatment is mainly done in three steps and may take more than one sessions to complete.
- Cleaning of the root canal: The dentist removes everything inside the canal. Under local anesthesia, a small hole is created and the dead pulp tissue is removed. This is called a pulpotomy. The process is not painful contrary to common belief
- Filling the root canal: After the removal of the dead tissues, the tooth is filled with a rubber-like material called gutta-percha, to seal the canals completely. After the therapy, the tooth is dead, and the patient no longer feels pain because the nerve tissue has been removed.
- Adding a crown or filling: The tooth, however, is more fragile and now prone to breakage. A crown or filling offers more support and protection to the tooth. The tooth will now continue to function as a normal tooth.
As with any treatment, complications can occur.
- Sometimes the dentist might find only three of the four canals. If one canal remains untreated, the infection might spread If the canals are not properly filled and sealed, the infection could return There are chances for the root of the tooth to crack or instruments to break the canal. This will make the sealing of the tooth difficult.
- With proper care, most teeth that have had root canal treatment can last a lifetime. Saving one’s natural teeth is always the best option. The only alternative to root canal therapy is tooth extraction and it can take longer time than a root canal treatment and would require denture, bridge or implant. Moreover, tooth extraction and its follow up processes would be more expensive than root canal treatment. As far as one’s oral hygiene is concerned, brush, floss and visit the dentist as one normally would.