Root canal treatment, or endodontic therapy, should be a pain free procedure administered by a properly qualified dentist. It is usually required when the blood or nerve supply of the tooth becomes infected through decay or injury. Any passing bacteria find this decaying pulp a suitable environment in which to multiply, and the immune system cannot properly respond to the increase in bacteria, because the blood supply has usually been fully cut-off from the pulp of the tooth, and cannot send any white blood cells to combat the bacteria. This infection increases, and can develop into a full abscess after enough bacteria has built up at the site. The pressure inside the mouth is usually enough to send an individual to the dentist, and the dentist has two choices of how to deal with the abscess. The first is simple extraction, removing the area where the bacterial has colonised, or to perform root canal treatment. The patient should be fully informed of the choices, and discuss the options fully with the dentist.
How Long Will the Procedure Take?
The root canal treatment is usually completed over two appointments, each lasting up to two hours. At the first appointment, the dentist should:
- Administer an appropriate pain relieving injection
- Drill into the pulp chamber and remove infected pulp
- Clean the canals buy use of needle like instruments
- Ensures all canals are clear of debris and infected pulp
It can take a while for the dentist to remove enough of the tooth to satisfactorily gain access to the canals, and can take up to ninety minutes to complete this procedure alone. Once satisfied, he/she will ensure the area is as clean as possible before applying a temporary sedative filling, and will arrange a return appointment for the permanent filling. This can be up to two weeks, and most people suffer no major discomfort during this time. The second appointment involves:
- A good dentist will offer a pain relieving injection, even though the follow up appointment is not as painful
- Some time may be spent doing some final shaping of the tooth by the dentist, until he is fully satisfied with its shape
- An inert substance, such as gutta percha
- Next the composite filling is applied building up a thicker layer by using many thinner strips attached together. They are ‘cured’ dry once in place, using a light beam.
- The patients bite should be checked as final confirmation.
If the infection progresses onto an abscess, it can in some cases be difficult for the dentist to save the tooth. Alternate options to having root canal treatment are very limited, with one option of no treatment, and the other of extraction. If one chooses the no treatment route, more pain, sometimes sharper in nature, along with other problems around the infected area. Eventually, one if forced to have either the root canal treatment, if still viable, or extraction. If extraction is opted for immediately, for whatever reason, an implant such as a bridge can be fixed into place of the missing tooth, to preserve a natural look. The procedure, if correctly followed by the dentist, should be relatively un-painful, and should be considered as the first course of action in the case of treatment needing to be taken.