Root Canal Introduction
A root canal is the main canal within the tooth’s natural cavity. The root canal contains the pulp chamber, filled with dental pulp. This pulp is susceptible to decay or inflammation because of various factors like caries, bacterial attack, etc. The process of removing this infected tissue is known as root canal treatment.
When is Root Canal done?
Root canal is done to save a tooth that has an infection which has penetrated to the nerve of the tooth. In root canal, all the damaged nerve tissue is removed and the area sterilized, so that tissue cannot grow back there. The cavity is then filled and sealed.
When is Root Canal not done?
If the tooth is broken or is loose, root canal will not help.
Root Canal Procedure
A root canal will need one or more visits to be completed. The steps involved in root canal are:
Step 1: An X-ray is taken to see the shape of the root canals and see if the infection has spread to the surrounding bone. Local anesthesia will then be given to numb the area surrounding the tooth. Anesthesia in most cases is not required, because the nerve is dead, but is still given to put the patient at ease.
Step 2: The area to be treated has to be kept dry. So, a rubber sheet is placed around the tooth to prevent saliva from making the area moist.
Step 3: An access hole is then drilled into the tooth. The dental pulp along with the infected and decayed nerve tissue and other debris is removed from this hole, using root canal files. A series of these files of increasing diameter are put through the access hole to clean the sides of the root canals. The debris is flushed with water or sodium hypochlorite.
Step 4: After the tooth is completely clean, it is sealed. But, if there is an infection, your dentist might want to treat that first and make sure it’s gone before sealing the tooth. Others may choose to seal the tooth the same day it is cleaned out. If the root canal cannot be finished on the same day, a temporary filling is placed in the exterior hole in the tooth to keep contaminants out between appointments.
Step 5: A sealer paste and a rubber compound is placed in the root canal, and the tooth is filled.
Step 6: A tooth that needs a root canal also usually needs further restoration like a crown or a post. This is now done to protect the tooth and restore it to a healthy state. Your dentist will discuss the need for this step with you
Post-Root Canal Care and Precautions
Initially, after the treatment, your tooth may feel sensitive or you may feel pain, especially if there was pain or infection before root canal. Over-the-counter pain medications can be used to minimize such discomfort.
You can also try to rinse the area thrice a day with tepid salt water to reduce the discomfort. Another method to alleviate pain and swelling is ice bags. Put ice cubes in a plastic bag and wrap it with a towel. Place this pack on your jaw for about 15 minutes every hour.
Till your root canal procedure is done, avoid chewing on the tooth being repaired.
After root canal, you can brush and floss normally.
Visit your dentist at the scheduled intervals.
If you have gone for further restoration of your teeth like a crown, call the dentist if your bite feels uneven or if your tooth feels “tight” or if you have problems flossing around the tooth.
Gently brush your teeth or rinse your mouth 2 to 3 times every day, preferably once after each meal. Your brush must have soft bristles. After brushing and flossing, rinse with an anti-plaque mouthwash.
Eat soft foods for a day or two after your first root canal appointment.
Do not bend over or lift heavy things for 2 to 3 days, if this makes you feel pain.
Root Canal vs. Implants and Bridges
When it is not possible to save a tooth with root canal, dentists recommend implants or bridges. But the first preference is always to save the tooth – which, can be achieved only with root canal.
Implants and bridges are costlier than root canal and are more time-consuming. They also involve additional procedures to adjacent teeth and supporting tissues.
Root Canal and Dental Filling
Root canal and dental filling do not really compete with each other. If the infection in your teeth has not yet touched the nerve, a simple filling will do. But if the decay has penetrated deep inside, a filling is placed only after the root canal procedure, that is, after the decayed matter is cleaned out. Hence, here root canal and dental filling complement each other.