If you’ve never had a root canal before, the prospect can be daunting. However, in cases where a standard filling won’t save your tooth, a root canal can provide a relatively fast and completely pain free solution.
Why are Root Fillings Necessary?
Teeth have a core of blood vessels and nerves at their centre in a space called the root canal. Very deep decay or injury to a tooth can destroy this living tissue and make it darken in colour. A ‘dead’ tooth is prone to infection. This in turn may lead to an abscess which can cause pain and swelling around the tooth. The root canal needs to be cleaned out thoroughly before any restoration work is done.
How is a Root Filling Done?
Your dentist will give you a local anaesthetic injection to numb the area before removing any decay using a drill. It shouldn’t feel any different to having a filling. A rubber dam will usually be placed over your tooth to keep it dry. Disinfectant and thin instruments are used to remove bacteria and dead cells from the root canals. There can be as many as four root canals in each tooth and they all need to be cleaned out in this way.
Afterwards your tooth is sealed by placing a temporary filling into the root canal. Once your dentist is happy that the infection has gone, a filling or crown can be placed on top.
Root fillings are complicated and you may need two or more appointments. You will need to have a number of X-rays during root canal treatment. When completed, a root filling should feel no different to an ordinary filling.
The pulp or inner tooth material can be damaged as a result of:
- Untreated tooth decay causing bacteria to spread into your tooth and infect the pulp.
- Severe gum disease causing gums to pull away from the teeth, thereby creating a gap called a periodontal pocket, which traps bacteria that can infect the pulp.
- Injury due to accidents that affect and infect the pulp.
The Purpose of Root Canal Treatment at Tracey Bell
The purpose of root canal treatment is to maintain the health of the tissues that surround a the root of the tooth despite the tooth s nerve undergoing degenerative changes. The tissues are therefore no longer infected with bacteria or irritating substances. If left untreated an abscess will form; the multiplying bacteria is pushed beyond the root tips. As the abscess expands within the bone, the tooth rises slightly out of its socket making it feel tender when you bite down. Without treatment, this infection can further spread to the surrounding tissues and nerves resulting in:
- Difficulty in swallowing
Root canal treatment removes the infected pulp and disinfects the pulp chamber thereby stopping the spread and formation of further infection. This helps to keep your teeth in their natural form.
Does a Root Filling Hurt?
Pain is always associated with root canals, but there should actually be little to no pain during the procedure. The procedure is not for cosmetics, but rather your health. The infection will only get worse with time if left untreated. The root canal procedure has a 92% success rate. The excellent news for you is that the tooth will not need to be extracted in the future.
Here at Tracey Bell, we’d be the first to acknowledge that root canal treatment has a reputation for being painful, but we d also be the first to refute this idea. It seems most likely to us that the majority of derogatory remarks you hear in regards to root canal treatment refers to the pain and discomfort that the person experienced leading up to receiving treatment. For the average person and the average case, root canal treatment is a non-event and not any more uncomfortable than having a filling replaced.
Risks of Root Fillings
As with any elective dental treatment, there are great benefits but there may also be risks involved. Our clinicians at Tracey Bell are more than happy to discuss any concerns with you.
Temporary tenderness when brushing your teeth after the procedure
- Pain and swelling
- Persistent abscesses
- Inability to save the tooth
- A case may need to be redone due to a diseased canal offshoot that may have gone unnoticed.
- Root canal treatment is 95% successful, however, occasionally the therapy can fail altogether, marked by a return of pain.
Do I need a root canal or Endodontic treatment?
If you’re experiencing extreme tooth pain, severe sensitivity, tooth discoloration, swollen gums, a recurring abscess on the gum line or a crack in a filling, or have suffered a traumatic injury affecting your teeth, you may need a root canal to save your tooth. If your dentist feels that you’re likely to need a root canal, they will take an X-ray, and may test for sensitivity to temperature; detailed imaging may also take place. If you have an abscess, your dentist may give you a course of antibiotics to tackle the infection before beginning your treatment or advise you that a root canal is required.
If I need a root canal, what happens next?
It is important that you understand the root canal process, the risks and benefits of the treatment along with the complexity of the treatment. Root canal treatments are now specially registered under the GDC and in some cases your dentist may advise you that a referral to a dentist with a special interest in root canals or endodontics may be necessary to guarantee long-term success and to offer the best treatment.
You’ll be given local anaesthetic to ensure that your root canal treatment is pain free. A rubber dam will then be placed around the tooth to keep the area dry. An access hole will be drilled and files will then be used to clean decayed nerves and debris. A rubber compound will then be used to fill the root canal. Then a temporary filling may be placed or in some cases the final filling will be completed during the same appointment.
Will my root canal treatment be painful?
Root canal treatment has an unfair reputation for being associated with pain – mainly because patients generally discover that they need a root canal after experiencing extreme pain to their tooth or gums. On the plus side, once you begin your treatment, your dentist will tackle the source of the pain and as local anaesthetic will be used throughout your treatment, at worst, you may experience slight discomfort. Post root canal treatment, tenderness and discomfort may be expected for 24-72 hours.
How much does a root canal treatment cost?
A root canal treatment at Tracey Bell, including X-rays, will cost between £500 and £900. A root canal can prevent the need for an extraction in many cases and if you look after your teeth and gums carefully after the treatment, root canal treatment can last a lifetime if regular maintenance and checks are routinely carried out.
What’s the success rate for root canals?
Approximately 95%. In very rare cases we may discover further infection to the root after completing a root canal and may need to give you further treatment. In even rarer cases, it may prove impossible to save the tooth with a root canal. However, as a treatment with a 95% success rate and longevity for most patients, a root canal is generally an excellent way to avoid an extraction. Root canals in our opinion should be carried out by a practitioner who has post graduate experience in this field. Treatments and technologies have advanced, making success rates for root canals much higher these days.
What should I do after my root canal treatment?
You may wish to take an over-the-counter medication, such as Aspirin or Ibuprofen for minor pain or sensitivity after your treatment. Ensure that you complete the course of any antibiotics prescribed by your dentist and ensure that you brush and floss as normal. In the longer term, being meticulous about brushing and flossing your teeth is vital to get the best out of your root canal treatment. If you look after your teeth, a root canal can last a lifetime. In the past, patients were generally told to expect a root canal to last for 8-10 years, but we’d also say that the longer you want your root canal to last for, the better you need to treat your teeth and gums! Not smoking, flossing and brushing your teeth religiously and visiting your dentist and hygienist regularly will all help to ensure that your root canal lasts for as long as possible. According to research, a crown inlay and post should be considered in all post root canal treatments.
Is a root canal a very time consuming treatment?
Root canal treatments can take between two to three hours depending on the complexity of the treatment. We may be able to complete your root canal in just one appointment, taking approximately 60 minutes, but root canals are technically very challenging and hence time must be taken to achieve the best possible results.
What are the biggest myths about root canal treatment?
That root canals are painful. Yes, if you need a root canal you may well come in to the clinic in pain, but that should stop once we begin the treatment! Patients often say that the relief they feel once root canal treatment begins and we can stop the pain they’ve been experiencing to their tooth and gum is enormous and the root canal treatment itself should be painless.
That root canals are expensive. They’re more expensive than standard composite fillings, but are far cheaper than dental implants and if you catch your dental problems early enough, having a root canal may save you from needing an implant in the future. A naturally saved root canal is always better than an implant and yes, the prospect of spending up to two to three hours in the dentist’s chair may seem daunting, but it’s worthwhile to be completely pain free and to save your tooth!
That root canals take a long time. We may be able to complete your root canal treatment in just one appointment, and even if it’s split over more than one appointment, it’s a surprisingly fast and effective way to save your tooth!
That root canals take a long time to recover from. Just like after you’ve had a filling, sometimes you may experience a little sensitivity, but this should pass in a day or two. We’d also advise biting a little more gently on the treated tooth for the day or so after treatment and Ibuprofen can be taken.
Apart from this, there’s really no down time after a root canal. Just take care to brush and floss thoroughly and it’s business as usual after your treatment.
That root canals don’t last for long. We’ll give you the highest possible standard of treatment. Then it’s over to you. If you look after your teeth well post-treatment, root canals tend to have excellent longevity. Root canals in general fail if they’re not completed correctly. Remember to ask your dentist openly about her experience of root canal treatments. Ask them whether they use a microscope and ask them to give their opinion on the risks and benefits of the treatment. Like anything, root canal treatment may seem to be expensive, take time and seem daunting, but if carried out by the right practitioner with the correct experience, root canal should be a pleasant and successful treatment at Tracey Bell!