If you’ve been nursing severe dental pain
that’s particularly troublesome when you eat – with sensitivity lasting long
after you’ve tucked into that meal or enjoyed a drink – then it may mean you
need root canal treatment.
Root canal therapy is all about saving a tooth rather than having it extracted.
Also known as endodontic therapy, it’s a dental treatment that eliminates infection from inside the tooth to restores it to its normal function.
Other indications you may need root canal therapy include:
- Physical trauma to the tooth
- Irritation caused by a deep decay or a large filling
- Bacterial leakage of an old filling or crown
- Severe gum disease
Sometimes, however, there may not be any pain at all. The nerves in a damaged tooth can die slowly over time and desensitises it, which means infection can continue to develop quietly inside the tooth creating a ‘time-bomb’ effect that cause pain weeks, months or even years later. Other signs, for example, include a small,
pimple-like bump on the gums near the area of teeth pain, darkening of the
tooth and/or tenderness or swelling in the gums.
Equally, not all types of dental pain demand root canal therapy so it’s important to keep those regular dental appointments with your dental clinic in order that your dentist will pick up any signs of niggling trouble early on.
Root canal treatment involves the removal of inflamed or infected pulp from the tooth before it is cleaned and disinfected inside and then filled and sealed.
The tooth is usually then restored with a crown or filling for protection.
So, should you need root canal therapy, we now dispel a few of the myths you may read before agreeing to treatment . . .
Myth number one: It’s very painful
Well, first of all, root canal therapy is
all about relieving you of pain, not causing it – something that, inmost cases,
happens when infection reaches the root of a tooth. Sadly, however, root canal
therapy has had a pretty bad press over the years – even US President Barack
Obama suggested the much-hated bank bailout was ‘as popular as a root canal’ way
back in 2010.
But, as with all science, dental innovation is constantly developing and, these days, with the use of cutting-edge technology and predictable and painless anaesthetic techniques, having root canal therapy is no more painful than having dental filling.
According to Dr Fabricio Teixeira, head of the Department of Endodontics at the University of Iowa College of Dentistry in the US: ‘In 2016, people still fear root canals. We can pretty much, today, perform the entire treatment with no pain. Once in awhile, you have challenging situations, but we have way better techniques, better understandings, and we can pretty much reduce discomfort to almost none.’
If you find a dental clinic that has plenty experience delivering this treatment, then you are in safe hands!
Myth number two: Root canal treatment can cause illness and disease elsewhere in the body.
It is far better to have root canal therapy than have a tooth removed – which is very often the only other option. Extracting a tooth causes a significantly higher incidence of bacteria entering the bloodstream, whereas a well-performed root canal procedure confines all treatment to inside the root canals, reducing trauma and meaning less chance of bacteria entering the blood stream.
In truth, root canal therapy can also improve your oral health – therefore eliminating chances of disease – and will also restore the health and function of a damaged tooth.
Myth number three: Root canal therapy doesn’t last very long.
You may have heard of people experiencing a broken tooth only months after root canal therapy and so think that treatment has failed. The truth is more likely to be that they didn’t have a crown fitted afterwards, which seals the tooth and strengthens it, too. When a nerve is removed from the inside of a tooth, the blood supply is eliminated from inside the tooth, which means that, in the long term, it becomes brittle. Therefore, grinding, eating, and even talking may cause the tooth to break. Not all teeth will need a crown, however e.g. those at the front of the mouth and strong teeth.
As with all dental treatments, make sure you speak to your friendly dental clinic about your options, what to expect during treatment, the outcomes and benefits – and, of course, any risks of not having treatment.
Dr Biju Krishnan
Dr Biju Krishnan has published in many international journals and recently authored the first book on cosmetic orthodontics. He is on the board of the British Academy of Restorative Dentistry and the editorial board of the journal Aesthetic Dentistry Today.