When a tooth becomes infected, a root canal procedure may avoid the need for extraction.
Many teeth are lost through external damage, and through decay of the hard outer enamel layer. A somewhat surprising number of teeth are also lost through infection of the inner part of the tooth, called the pulp. The pulp or pulp chamber is the soft area within the root canal, this contains the nerves and many minor blood vessels.
When a tooth’s nerve tissue or pulp is damaged, it can break down and bacteria can begin to multiply within the pulp chamber. Without treatment, the tissue surrounding the tooth will become infected and a painful abscess may eventually form. An abscess is a pus-filled pocket that forms at the end of the roots of the tooth
Root canal treatment is a procedure that can be performed as an alternative treatment to tooth extraction and during the procedure, the infected material is removed. A tooth’s nerve is not essential to a tooth’s function once the tooth has emerged through the gums. Its main function is sensory, i.e. providing the sensation of hot or cold, so the presence or absence of a nerve will not affect the day-to-day functioning of the tooth.
Here at The Clock Tower Dental Clinic in Epsom, one of our highly trained dental practitioners will first of all take an x-ray to ensure that no abscesses are present. If one is detected, the procedure will be postponed whilst a course of antibiotics is prescribed to clear it. To perform the procedure with an abscess present could be very painful indeed for the patient and consequently this must be checked for and cleared before treatment begins.
Once the dentist is satisfied that there are no abscesses present, the area will be numbed using a powerful local anaesthetic to minimise any discomfort which may be felt during the root canal procedure. When the anaesthetic has taken effect, the top of the tooth will then be removed and the inner soft pulp that has been infected will be taken out and replaced with a special anti-bacterial filling. This helps to prevent further problems. Once the canals have been filled, a dental crown is added to give the treated tooth both a natural appearance and sufficient strength for normal use.
Having saved the tooth with the procedure, the natural tooth will have been preserved. It will, however, have no sensation due to the removal of the nerves contained within it. Because of this, it is important for the patient to remember that the tooth will not be as strong as a natural tooth and to avoid using it overly aggressively by, for example, biting down on very hard objects. This can on occasions cause breakage to the tooth.
Generally though, and with reasonable care, a tooth that has been preserved by a root canal procedure should survive for many years and avoid the need for more invasive methods such as replacing the lost tooth with a dental implant.
If you are considering undergoing a root canal procedure, and have any questions or concerns, then please contact The Clock Tower Dental Clinic on 01372 720136, or use the contact form via our website. One of our staff will be pleased to answer whatever concerns you may have.