If you are reading this blog, chances are, your dentist has prescribed a root canal procedure to treat a damaged or diseased tooth.
Before you run off, terrified at the prospect of having a root canal, we’ve got a secret to tell you…
At Hamilton Dental Centre, we use advanced dental techniques and practices to make your experience of having a root canal, no more uncomfortable than having a routine filling.
The fact of the matter is, that root canal treatment will remove pain – the toothache that is the most common symptom preceding the need for a root canal, will be alleviated by doing a root canal procedure.
Millions of teeth are treated and saved this way each year, relieving pain and making teeth healthy again.
What is a root canal?
Inside every tooth there are canals known as root canals. These root canals contain dental pulp.
Dental pulp has a soft, gummy consistency. It is filled with nerves and blood vessels. If the dental pulp dies or is diseased, people experience toothache or an abscess occurs.
A root canal describes the dental procedure that removes inflamed or infected dental pulp from inside of the tooth. The afflicted tooth is then carefully cleaned, disinfected, filled, and sealed.
How do you know if you need a root canal?
The only way to know for sure if you need a root canal is by paying a visit to your dentist. But here are common warning signs to be on the lookout for:
- Tooth pain that it is persistent or comes and goes repeatedly.
- Sensitivity to hot and cold.
- Tooth discolouration.
- Swollen gums.
- Pain when you touch or chew on the tooth.
- Chips or cracks on your tooth.
- Tooth Mobility (when your tooth feels wobbly).
If you notice any of these symptoms, it’s important to see your dentist as soon as possible. The sooner your tooth can be treated, the better the outcome will likely be.
What causes a root canal infection?
Common causes for root canal infections include:
- Dental decay (cavities) that spreads beneath the enamel layer and into the pulp chamber.
- Dental damage, like chips and cracks, that exposes the inner layer of your tooth, allowing harmful bacteria inside.
- Dental trauma, even if there aren’t visible signs.
- Repeated dental treatments to a tooth.
Do root canals hurt?
A root canal procedure sounds scary, but with advances in pain-free dentistry, it’s typically not that different to having a deep filling (apart from that a root canal procedure takes a bit longer).
The dentist will use an anaesthetic gel to numb your gums. This means that injections of local anaesthetics used to numb the gums and tooth will be painless! Once the affected tooth and surrounding structures are numbed with local anaesthetic, you will experience minimal discomfort during the procedure.
If you need a root canal and have facial swelling or a fever, your dentist may give you antibiotics beforehand to kill the infection. This may also help reduce your pain.
It is normal for your mouth to feel sore or tender after the root canal. Our dentist will suggest that you take an over-the-counter pain medication such as paracetamol (Panadol) or ibuprofen (Neurofen).
How long does a root canal take?
The length of time that your appointment will take, depends on the following factors:
- The severity of infection in your tooth.
- The tooth that needs root canal therapy.
- How many roots your tooth has.
- If you have other related oral health issues.
Typically, a root canal procedure requires one or two visits. Each visit can vary between 30 to 90 minutes on average.
In some cases, our dentists will also recommend the application of a dental crown. Often, this step will require another appointment, allowing time to guarantee your tooth has healed before the crown is permanently placed.
How is a root canal done?
We treat each person in isolation, as cases vary, but the following process gives an example of a typical root canal procedure:
- Our dentist will numb the entire area surrounding your tooth.
- If you have difficulty getting numb or suffer from dental anxiety, we offer oral sedation and/or nitrous oxide (laughing gas) to keep you calm and comfortable.
- We’ll create a tiny opening in your tooth to access the pulp chamber.
- We’ll carefully remove the infection and pulp.
- We’ll thoroughly disinfect and rinse the inside of your tooth.
- If necessary, we may place medication inside your tooth to kill off the infection and have you return for another appointment to complete the treatment.
- Your root canal will be filled and sealed with a high-quality resin to prevent reinfection and reinforce the structure of your tooth.
- Lastly, a dental crown may be recommended to protect your tooth from breaking and restore its function. If this is the case, you may require an additional appointment to have the crown made and placed.
Can you eat after a root canal?
Once the numbing effects of the local anaesthetic have worn off, you are free to eat and drink.
We recommend enjoying soft foods after your procedure to avoid irritation and allow your mouth to recover.
Luckily, there are loads of wholesome foods you can enjoy:
- Soft cooked vegetables and/or meat, for example in a stew, curry, or soup.
- Ripe, canned, or cooked fruit.
- Pasta, noodles, rice, or other cooked soft grains.
Avoid hard and sticky foods and very hot or cold items, until your moth feels fully recovered from the procedure.
What should I expect after a root canal?
It takes a couple of hours for the numbing effects of the local anaesthetic to wear off. We recommend you to avoid eating until the numbness is gone.
However, most people can go right back to work, school, or other activities.
For the first few days following the completion of a root canal, it is normal for the tooth to feel sensitive due to tissue inflammation, especially if there was pain or infection before the procedure. This pain can be controlled using over-the-counter pain killers.
Brush, floss, and use an antiseptic mouthwash as you regularly would and see your dentist at normally scheduled intervals.
How long does a root canal last?
Root canal treatment is highly successful; the procedure has more than a 95% success rate. Many teeth fixed with a root canal can last a lifetime.
Here are ways to help your repaired tooth last for the rest of your life:
- Have the tooth crowned if recommended by our dentist. This will add extra strength and durability to the tooth.
- Maintain 6 monthly appointments with the dental hygienist, and yearly appointments with the dentist to ensure you are maintaining optimal oral health and hygiene.
- Keep this tooth safe from further infection and injury – avoid sticky chewy lollies!
- Make sure to brush and floss morning and night, and use a fluoridated toothpaste.
How much does a root canal cost?
The cost of carrying out root canal treatment varies depending on the tooth, number of canals and overall complexity.
At your initial consultation, we will be able to provide an estimate based on your individual case, and manage any expectation you have for treatment.
So there you have it, root canals are not so scary after all!
Root canals are life-changing. They help dentists to save millions of teeth from being extracted, every year.
The goal of a root canal is to save a tooth that has been badly damaged from decay, disease or injury.
With root canal treatment, patients are able to keep their own teeth rather than having them removed.
Your own teeth are better than artificial teeth. They’re stronger and better for biting and chewing.
Our dentists are experts at providing the best root canal treatment for you, so don’t hesitate to book in for this procedure, and eliminate your suffering!