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Root canal treatment
Root canal treatment
Apr 18, 2020 by Dr. Sanchita Tyagi

What is a Root Canal?

A root canal is a treatment used to repair and save a tooth that is badly decayed or becomes infected. Duringroot canal procedure, the nerve and pulp are removed and the inside of the tooth is cleaned and sealed. Without treatment, the tissue surrounding the tooth will become infected and abscesses may form.

 "Root canal" is the term used to describe the natural cavity within the center of the tooth.

When the words ‘root canal’ are said, most people think of the treatment procedure but in reality, it is this innermost layer of the tooth that is being referred to. When your dentist advice a root canal procedure, it means that they are going to remove the infected pulp of the decayed tooth, clean the canal and fill it with an inert material and seal your tooth.

So, to answer the basic question of “When is a root canal needed?” that most patients have, the answer is – when your root canal gets infected!

How do your tooth and the root canal get infected?

So, what causes a root canal to get infected? Well, the most obvious reason is that tooth decay reaches and penetrates the pulp which results in root canal infection. Here are some common causes for root canal infections:

  • Decay that begins in the upper layers of the tooth and eventually reaches the pulp
  • A tooth that has a crack, is broken or a major portion is chipped-off creates a portal of entry for bacteria into the tooth
  • Tooth injuries
  • Abnormalities in the tooth shape that predisposes it to tooth decay
  • Infections of the gum that affect the root canal from within the gum
  • Sudden death of the pulp tissue due to a blow or sudden impact to the tooth
  • Recurring decay and subsequent fillings on a tooth
  • Repeated root canal treatments on the same tooth

When is a root canal needed?                                                                          

While there are many reasons for “why a root canal is needed”, but what about the main question “when is a root canal needed?”

When pain strikes, it is often difficult to put your mind to your routine work and you are constantly thinking about “are these root canal pain symptoms”, “Are these signs of root canal treatment?”, “How do I know I need a root canal?” etc. However, this is what your will determine.

To determine when a filling is required and when a root canal is needed, a qualified dentist checks all signs and symptoms of the patient. Some symptoms that patients are likely to experience and that also help the dentist evaluate and diagnose the case better are:

  • Pain – A pulsating kind of pain that increases on changing posture, mainly while lying down or at night causing excessive pain at night. The tooth is extremely sensitive and painful to touch, tapping, and biting forces.
  • Swelling in the gums and surrounding tissue- In most cases, patients visit their dentists when their tooth ache is probably a few days or weeks old and they haven’t been able to reduce it using painkillers.
  • This is one of the biggest mistakes that patients can make! Due to this delay, the infection originating in the root canal of the tooth becomes chronic and gives signs to show the urgency that a root canal treatment is required.

The swelling can be tender and painful or completely asymptomatic; it may also come and go. In a large number of cases, the swelling has an opening that allows the pus inside the infected tooth and the surrounding soft tissues to drain by itself.

  • Discoloration of the tooth – Many a time, the patients are able to notice the change in the color of the infected tooth. This change in color indicates that the tooth pulp is dead and the tooth needs a root canal treatment. Sometimes, the tooth discoloration is evident but the patient is asymptomatic.
  • Feeling ill - Did you know that an infected root canal can cause you to feel ill? It’s true! Many patients have feeling of general illness and even fever, at times.

While these root canal symptoms and signs are identifiable by both patients as well as dentists, there are some signs that only dentists are able to identify and answer the patients’ question -“When is a root canal needed?”

How is a diagnosis made?

In order to determine when a root canal is required in a patient, dentist use the following methods:

  • X-rays- These are inevitable in diagnosing tooth decay, especially to determine when is a root canal needed
  • Thermal and electric testing on the tooth to determine if it is alive or dead
  • Tapping and percussing the tooth to evaluate patient’s symptoms
  • Checking for obvious nerve exposure while removing decay on the tooth surface
  • Cavity test
  • Mobility of the tooth
  • Chipping or cracked tooth.

Are Root canal treatments painful?

Now that you have got a brief idea about when is a root canal required, and learning about what the various symptoms that demand a root canal treatment, the next question that creates waves of anxiety in a patient’s mind is “Are root canals painful?”

Thanks to the modern technology, equipment and pain control methods, root canal treatments are a breeze through for both the patient as well as the dentist. Once your dentist anaesthetizes your tooth and the surrounding area, the pain experienced by you reduces and your tooth and surrounding area starts to get numb.

Once the tooth is numbed, patients are automatically put at ease while the dentist carries out the procedure. A root canal treatment takes slightly longer and may require more sittings than a filling. After the infected root canal is cleaned and sterilized, your dentist fills an inert material into the canals and seals them.

Your tooth is now painless and requires a cap to support it.                             

How to steer clear of root canal problems?

Once a patient has undergone a root canal treatment, he/she is often wary about getting another one done. They now know when is a root canal required and the signs and symptoms you need a root canal. So, the most common query they now have is – how can we prevent root canal problems? Here are some tips that one can follow to prevent dental decay and cavities from arising:

  • Floss between your teeth – This is probably more important than brushing your teeth because most dental decay and cavities that result in root canals arise from food that is stuck between teeth and is difficult to clean with plain brushing.
  • Brushing your teeth at least twice a day, or after every meal
  • Use fluoride toothpastes
  • Visit your dentist every 6 months for a routine check-up, even when you have no tooth troubles
  • Get cleaning and polishing done twice a year by your dentist

At Spadent clinics, our team of dentists provides routine consultations and checks patients for signs of early tooth decay. One common question our doctors are asked at our clinics is “How do I know it is a root canal or a filling?” Well, when the decay is small or in its initial stages, a simple filling is done. But, when the decay has extended into the pulp and infected it, a root canal treatment is performed.

If you still have queries about when is a root canal procedure performed, feel free to visit one of our clinics and get consulted by our team of dental experts

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