Root Canal: Causes, symptoms, the procedure, benefits, and risks
Not sure if you need a root canal? Here are some symptoms to help guide your decision.
In the past few decades, dental health has become more and more complicated with advanced treatments like endodontics that include procedures such as surgical implants, crowns and bridges.
One of the most common questions asked by patients is whether or not they certainly need surgery-based treatment for their tooth pain/damage. If you can’t find an answer through self-treatment or regular visits with your dentist, it’s time to seek help.
Root canal therapy can be a recommended treatment for tooth pain/damage caused by an infection or nerve damage.
Here is an overview of the symptoms, causes and risks of root canal surgery:
What is root canal treatment?
Root canal treatment is a dental procedure which aims to remove decay, as well as replacing a crown. The “dental pulp” consists of connective tissue and nerves, and continues into the root of the tooth. If this tissue becomes infected or inflamed, it can cause severe pain and even lead to tooth loss. Root canal treatment removes the affected pulp, cleans and disinfects the inside of the tooth, then replaces the pulp with a filler material. This saves the tooth from being extracted.
In some cases, a crown may also be replaced during RCT.
The word “root” refers to the part of a tooth which anchors in the jaw, while “dentine” is a hard material that protects the visible part of a tooth. The root is made up of dentin and cementum- both are hard materials. Dentin is less dense and softer than enamel but harder than cementum. Cementum covers the root and helps anchor the tooth in place.
The pulp chamber is “hollow” and contains blood vessels, nerves and pulpal tissue, providing oxygen and nutrients to the tooth. The pulp also contains cells which produce dentin. The pulp extends from the crown (visible part) of a tooth down into its root.
The main function of the dental pulp is to regulate the growth and development of teeth during childhood; once a tooth is fully formed it can function without its pulp. Teeth usually stop growing by age 12 so for most people, there isn’t much need for dental pulp after that age!
Symptoms and Signs of tooth pulp damage or disease
Damage to the tooth pulp may not always cause symptoms. In some cases, there may be no symptoms at all until the pulp is significantly damaged or infected.
If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms, it is likely that you have some form of pulp damage or disease and should see a dentist as soon as possible:
- Severe toothache, especially when chewing
- Tooth sensitivity to heat or cold
- Swelling and/or tenderness in the gums near the affected tooth
- Discoloration of the tooth
- Pus drainage from around the root of the tooth
Causes of tooth pulp damage or disease
There are many causes of tooth pulp damage or disease, but the most common one is tooth decay. When the tooth decay reaches the pulp (the soft tissue inside the tooth), it can cause infection and inflammation. This inflammation will cause pain and pressure in the tooth, and can sometimes be relieved by draining the pus from the infected area.
Deep-seated decay, trauma, and habitual tooth grinding are further common causes. If left untreated, the inflammation can cause irreversible tissue death in the tooth’s pulp and significant pain.
Symptoms of tooth pulp damage or disease can vary depending on the severity of the infection. They may include very painful infection, swelling in response to inflammation, and increased pressure inside the tooth. In some cases, symmetry is restored after RCT.
Another common cause of tooth pulp damage is extensive decay that has gone undiagnosed for a long time. When the decay reaches the innermost part of the tooth (the root), it can cause significant damage to the pulp. Trauma to a tooth can also lead to inflammation and damage to the pulp. And lastly, habitual tooth grinding (bruxism) can wear down teeth over time and eventually expose the pulp cavity.
Complications of tooth pulp/root canal infection
If you have an infection in your tooth’s pulp, it is important to take care of it right away. If the infection spreads, it can become life-threatening. If the root canal infection spreads to the jaw bone, there may be no treatment options left.
There are a few potential complications that can occur after a tooth has been removed due to an infection in its root canal:
- Infection in other parts of the body from bacteria spreading
- Jaw bone problems
- Damage to adjacent teeth
Diagnosis of tooth pulp problems
If you are experiencing any of the symptoms of a tooth pulp problem, it is important to go and see your dentist as soon as possible. The dentist will be able to examine your teeth and take x-rays in order to plan for the RCT. The dentist uses x-rays to get an idea about how complicated the procedure may be.
Sometimes, people experience toothache or pain when they bite down on something hard. Other symptoms include sensitivity to hot or cold temperatures, swelling and/or redness around the gums, pus drainage from the gums, bad breath, and a change in the way a tooth looks (for example, it may become darker).
The structure of a tooth can also cause symptoms of tooth pulp damage or disease. For example, if there is a large cavity at the top of a molar (back) tooth that goes down into the pulp chamber, this can cause pain and other symptoms. Similarly, if there is an infection at the tip of a root (endodontic infection), this can also cause problems and require treatment with a root canal.
What happens during root canal treatment procedures?
Here are the detailed explanations the 3 stages of RCT
Stage 1 – Extirpation: The file is used to remove the nerve and medicate the tooth, taking 20-45 minutes.
During this stage, the first step is to clamp and fill the tooth. The file is then used to remove the nerve and medicate the tooth, taking 20-45 minutes. Afterwards, any sharp edges or rough angles left in the tooth are filed away and shaped so that they’re no longer a problem. Finally, polishing takes place to ensure your teeth look their best once they’ve finished treatment!
Stage 2 – Instrumentation: This takes 30-60 minutes depending on the complexity of the tooth.
Instrumentation is performed when the tooth is pain-free. This stage of treatment involves using various instruments to clean and shape the root canals of your teeth. It usually takes 30-60 minutes depending on how complex your teeth are. Once it’s completed, you’ll be one step closer to having healthy teeth again!
Stage 3 – Obturation: The rubber dam and clamp are placed in this step, completing RCT procedures .
Obturation is performed when the tooth is pain-free. The word “obturation” refers to the process of filling a root canal with gutta percha, which creates an airtight seal and prevents infection. In this stage, the rubber dam and clamp are placed in order to complete the RCT procedures. Once it’s done, your tooth will be pain-free and you’ll be one step closer to having healthy teeth again!
What Are The Benefits Of A Root Canal?
Root canals are common dental procedures that have been used for many years. It offers many benefits, including:
- Pain relief
- Prevention of spread of infection to neighbouring teeth
- Restoration of teeth to a healthy state that lasts a lifetime
- Fewer risks than treatment of endodontic emergencies such as an abscess
- Can save teeth that would otherwise have to be removed.
- Root canals help to make the teeth look better (without hurting).
- A healthy restored tooth that can last a lifetime.
- Normal biting and chewing sensation.
- Root canals are typically cheaper than other options, such as dentures or bridges.
- Prevents tooth loss
- Boosts aesthetics of teeth
- Prevents jawbone degeneration
- Boosts oral and overall health
Tooth colour after root canal treatment
One of the potential consequences of this treatment is that the tooth may appear darker. While this change in tooth colour is usually temporary, it can be permanent in some cases.
Although teeth whitening may help to reduce overall tooth discolouration, it is not as effective on root canal treated teeth. In fact, in some cases, more treatments may be necessary for teeth that have undergone a root canal procedure. This is because the natural tooth structure has been compromised and the bleaching agents may not reach all of the stained areas.
In some cases, teeth may need internal bleaching or “walking” bleach to restore whiteness. Internal bleaching involves applying bleach solution onto the nerve chamber of the tooth and sealing it with a temporary filling. This procedure can lighten teeth by up to six shades and is usually successful in restoring the natural tooth colour.
When a root canal is completed, the tooth will no longer have any living tissue inside it. In some cases, you will need to have a dental crown or veneer put in place to keep the tooth strong and prevent it from cracking. The dead tooth may also change in colour over time.
How painful is it?
Typically, people do not experience a lot of pain after getting a root canal. On the whole, people usually say that a root canal doesn’t hurt any more than getting a filling. In fact, the pain relief is so extreme that many people report having a minimal recovery time. However, since everyone’s body reacts differently to anesthesia, some people may feel a little soreness when they start chewing on that tooth again.
Some discomfort may be felt for a few days after the procedure. This is due to the nerve endings around the outside of the tooth that were not removed during the procedure. Although it should lessen over time, there may still be some sensitivity present.
Pain medication such as ibuprofen can help control any pain or discomfort during this period of recovery. However, ibuprofen should not be used by those taking certain blood thinners.
If the person is experiencing extreme pain following a root canal, he or she should return to the dentist for further evaluation.
Are there side effects? What happens to my tooth after root canal treatment?
There are risks and probable side effects associated with this procedure, especially if you still experience pain after the therapy. It is important to ask your endodontist any questions you may have about pain and side effects of RCT.
After the RCT is completed, your tooth may feel different. Some patients feel it as a dead arm or numb arm/leg. Remember that the nerve is missing from the tooth so it will not feel the same as before. The next step is to make an appointment with a dentist and discuss any further concerns you may have.
While the benefits of the procedure usually outweigh the risks, it is important to be aware of them before making a decision. Side effects can include pain, infection, and abscesses. Additionally, your tooth may become brittle after the treatment and could eventually need to be extracted. Make sure you discuss all potential risks and side effects with your dentist before making a decision.
Complications can arise from any medical procedure, and root canals are no exception. Although they’re rare, these complications may necessitate additional treatment. In some cases, the infection may not have been completely eliminated during the first treatment and will require a follow-up visit.
If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms weeks after your RCT was completed, it’s likely that there’s still an infection present. This could cause further problems down the road if left untreated, so it’s important to seek additional care as soon as possible to prevent any long-term damage.
Any kind of infection is serious business. That’s why it’s always important to consult with a qualified professional before making any decisions about your oral health–especially if you think you might need a root canal!
How Can I Avoid Root Canal Treatment?
Maintaining good oral hygiene is one way to avoid RCT. This includes brushing your teeth at least twice a day, flossing once a day, and using a mouthwash.
If you are at risk of grinding your teeth when sleeping, wearing a mouth guard can protect your teeth from being damaged.
Regular dental checkups and cleanings will help prevent the development of problems that could lead to root canal therapy or other more serious issues in the future.
By avoiding sugary and acidic food and drink, you can help reduce the chances of developing cavities or other dental problems.
How does endodontic treatment save the tooth?
Root canal therapy, also called endodontic treatment, encompasses all elements of repairing and treating a tooth where the pulp has been injured or exposed, as well as the treatment of peri-apical tissues.
The pulp is at danger of additional damage or destruction in the latter instance.
Thus, endodontic therapy comprises pulp capping, both direct and indirect, with the goal of saving the pulp and re-establishing the tooth as a fully functioning structure.
It also comprises the treatment of a tooth whose pulp has been significantly injured, either by trauma or infection, to the point that the pulp must be extracted.
When this is essential, it must be followed by root sealing of the tooth.
This allows the tooth to operate structurally even if it is no longer viable.
After endodontic treatment, the tooth is restored with a crown or filling for protection.
Endodontic treatment allows you to keep your natural smile, consume the foods you enjoy, and reduces the need for further dental care.
Most root canal treated teeth can last a lifetime if properly cared for.
Regenerative Endodontic Procedures
Endodontics is the branch of dentistry that pertains to the study and treatment of the dental pulp and root canal system. This area has seen significant advancement in recent years with the advent of regenerative endodontic procedures.
Traditionally, when a tooth was determined to be “dead” or had lost its vitality, an apexification procedure would be performed in order to prevent further damage to the tooth. However, this approach often leads to fractures and other development problems with teeth.
More recently, regenerative endodontics has emerged as an alternative treatment option that may help preserve teeth in cases where they might otherwise have been lost. This newer approach involves procedures that allow teeth to regenerate pulp-like tissues, which can then support healthy root development.
So far, tissue regeneration procedures are still in their infancy, but studies suggest that even “dead,” immature teeth are capable of regenerating pulp-like tissues that foster healthy root development. As such, we can expect continued advancements in this field as researchers learn more about how these processes work and how they can be improved upon.
Is there an alternative to Root canal treatment?
RCT is a safe and common procedure that many people undergo every year. However, in some cases it may be necessary to explore other alternatives. One such alternative is dental implants.
Dental implants are a permanent solution for missing teeth. They consist of a titanium post that is surgically implanted into the jawbone, and a porcelain crown that is attached to the top. Implants are very strong and can last for many years with proper care.
Another alternative to RCT is a bridge. A bridge is a dental restoration that replaces one or more missing teeth. It is made up of two or more crowns that are attached to adjacent teeth on either side of the gap, and a pontic (or false tooth) in between. Bridges are also very strong and can last for many years with proper care.
Finally, another option for those who do not want root canal therapy is dentures. Dentures are removable artificial teeth that fit over your gums. They come in both full and partial sets, depending on how many teeth you need replaced. Dentures are also very affordable and can be made from a variety of materials, including plastic and metal alloys
Frequently Asked Questions about Root Canals
How painful is a root canal?
A root canal is no more painful than getting a filling. In fact, many people find the procedure considerably less painful than getting a cavity filled.
How long does a typical root canal take?
Most procedures take between 60 and 90 minutes to complete. However, it’s important to note that each case varies and your dentist will be able to give you an accurate estimate based on your specific situation.
How will I feel after my root canal treatment?
Mild pain after surgery is normal and should dissipate within 1-3 days. However, it’s important to practice good oral hygiene in order to ensure a successful recovery. You may also experience some sensitivity to hot or cold foods for several weeks following treatment.
How long does it take to recover from a root canal?
It can take up to two weeks to recover from a root canal but most people feel better after a day or two following the RCT. It is important to keep up with your daily oral hygiene practices and take any prescribed medication in order to help you recover quickly. You may also need to use a cold compress on the area for relief from any discomfort or pain. If you have any questions or concerns, be sure to speak with your dentist.
Is it normal to have ear pain after root canal?
It is normal to experience some pain after a root canal. Because RCT needs you to keep your mouth open for an extended period of time, you may feel some discomfort in your jaw. This discomfort may radiate to your ear, especially if an upper molar has been treated for infection.
Furthermore, the region around your tooth and ear may feel painful as a result of the injections used to numb the area prior to treatment, creating comparable symptoms of discomfort and pain. This is not a cause for concern, and it should go away after a few days.
How do you know if you have a failed root canal?
If you are suffering severe pain and discomfort around your ear and your treated tooth after your root canal, your RCT has most likely failed.
This suggests that the pulp and root canal of your tooth were not adequately cleansed. If your tooth is not properly cleansed, the infection will continue to assault the structure of your tooth.
It’s also conceivable that the filling or crown used to repair and safeguard your tooth has a fracture or damage. This might result in root canal re-infection and deterioration.
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