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Are root canals really necessary

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tooth with root canal therapy
February 2, 2018
by Springvale Dental Clinic

Root canal treatment is among the most effective methods for saving and infected or decayed tooth. However, the process is highly misunderstood since most people are misled by inaccurate information about the treatment from unauthentic sources. Therefore, it’s vital that you get the right information about root canal before making a final decision of whether or not to go through with it. Most people have been asking their dentists if this process is really necessary. Well, to answer that question, this article is going to discuss more on root canal treatment and if it’s really necessary.

What is Root Canal?

Two basic parts make your tooth,and that is the crown and the root. The crown is the part that lies above the gum line and is visible when you open your mouth or smile. The root is the part of the tooth that lies below the gum line. This part is made up of the root chamber, the main canal or canals and the more complicated branches that connect root tissues to one another. The middle part of the tooth is where the soft tissues lie. These soft tissues are comprised of the nerves, the blood vessels and the connective tissues. This combination is what makes the dental pulp. The pulp is where the dentine portion of the tooth itself is made. The dental pulp helps in nourishing and keeping the whole tooth structure hydrated. It also helps in providing sensory details of your teeth such as the sensation of cold or hot.

A root canal is a term used when people are describing a dental operation known as endodontic therapy. This operation includes having the dental pulp cleaned out. After cleaning the dental pulp, it’s then disinfected,and space filled up. This treatment is recommended for people who have a badly decayed or infected tooth. The reason this process is carried out is to prevent bacteria from spreading throughout the entire tooth. If aroot canal is not carried to a badly decayed or infected tooth, the patient may end up losing the tooth. But before undertaking the treatment, your dentist must examine you and determine if the treatment is right for you.

Why Do I Need a Root Canal?

As already mentioned, inside the tooth there is live blood and nerve supply known as the dental pulp. The enamel which is the hard outer part is designed to protect the pulp. The pulp supplies the whole tooth with all the necessary nutrients, immune response and sensation. When your tooth get decayed due to the action of bacteria or when it undergoes other physical damage, the pulp can become affected. Root canal or Endodontic therapy is used to treat the infected or damaged pulp inside your tooth and prevent the infection from spreading to other teeth. The only other available alternative to an infected tooth is extracted. This will help resolve the source of infection and will allow the bone to heal. However, tooth extraction has many other side effects that include bone loss and your daily activities such as eating and speaking may be affected.

Signs and Symptoms Indicating That A Root Canal May Be Necessary

As much as root canals have a bad reputation, the procedure can go a great way to saving your tooth. If your tooth is severely decayed or infected, you might just be happy to visit a dental clinic near you and have root canal treatment that will save your tooth. Only a dentist or endodontic can determine whether or not you need a root canal treatment or not. However, here are some few warning signs that indicate you need to see your dentist for root canal diagnosis.

– Pain While Eating or Putting Pressure on the Tooth Area
When something serious is happening with your body, it will always send some warning signs. In this case, your body will signal that you require a root canal treatment with a toothache. A toothache can be a quite common occurrence. However, the type of atoothache that occurs while you are eating or when you apply pressure on the tooth area might signal the need or a root canal. The pain can feel like its throbbing like a heartbeat,and it might continue on and off throughout the day.

– Tender or Swollen Gums Near the Area of the Tooth
Tender or swollen gums may be an indication of an infection. An infection inside your tooth may require a root canal. If you notice that the tenderness is ongoing, the gums are swollen and accompanied with some pain, visit your dentist immediately. He or she will examine you to determine if the infection is coming from the gums or the tooth.

– Sensitivity
Teeth sensitivity is mostly experienced when people expose the teeth to different temperatures. However, you will know that your tooth might need a tooth canal when this sensitivity does not go away. You will experience tooth sensitivity even when your tooth is not exposed to any change of temperature. Such sensitivity might be an indication that the dental pulp has begun to die.

– Darkening of the Tooth
While having dark tooth is not always an indication of root damage, having one tooth that is darker than others may be a first tell-tale that should prompt your dentist to take a closer look at it. A darker tooth may be an indication that the root is dying. Tooth darkening may be caused by several factors that include trauma to the tooth due to knock or hard fall. The tooth may take years to darken. In most cases, such a tooth is not associated with any pain,butstill, it requires root canal treatment to prevent any pain in future.

– A Small Bump Near The Tooth
You may also notice a small bump that looks much like swollen or tender gums. This might be an indication of infection to your tooth or gums. This bump is one of the body’s way to show that there is an underlying infection. If the infection has originated from inside your tooth, then root canal treatment will be necessary.

Benefits of Saving Your Natural Tooth Using Root Canal

There are many clinical reasons why aroot canal is necessary, but there also countless practical reasons why saving your natural tooth is a wise decision. Endodontic therapy enables you tomaintain your natural smile, eat your favourite meals and limit the need for ongoing dental work. Most teeth that have undergone root canal therapy can last a lifetime with proper care. Here are some few benefits of root canal therapy over tooth extraction.

– Relieves Pain and Restores Tooth Function
The procedure can cause some minor pain and discomfort due to the nature of treatment. However, this is nothing compared to the pain experienced during tooth extraction. The treatment also relieves the pain caused by infection.

– Efficient and Cost Effective
Tooth extraction can be a lengthy procedure due to follow up treatment that may be necessary due to other restorative procedures such as implants or dental bridges. Root canal treatment is also cost effective since most dental insurance covers root canal therapy.

– Contrary to the Belief of Many, The Procedure is Relatively Simple
A majority of people fear endodontic treatment because they mistakenly believe the procedure is invasive, complex and difficult. However, this is not the case. Actually, in most cases, the experience of having a root canal is more like having a dental filling. The process is painless and will leave you with very minimal discomfort unlike having a tooth extraction. All thanks to modern techniques and local anaesthesia, studies show that patient who undergoes root canal therapy are likely to describe it like six times less painful compared to tooth extraction.

– Visually Appealing
Tooth decay, fracture and infection can cause aesthetic issues. Dental crowns not only functions like natural teeth but also looks great. The dentist will seal the hole with a material that looks just like your natural teeth. Thiswill allow your treated tooth to look and function just like your other natural teeth.

– Preserves Natural Tooth Structure
In dental care, a dentist aims to help a patient reserve his or her natural tooth structure as much as possible. With endodontic therapy, a patient is able to keep their tooth and prevent some issues that come with tooth extraction such as bone loss.

– Enhances Your Overall Wellbeing and Overall Health
Having to live with an infected tooth can be harmful to your overall health and oral health as well. Bacterial can penetrate the surrounding teeth and gums and may even travel through your system if left untreated. Undergoing endodontic therapy is an effective way of protecting your overall wellbeing and maintain your beautiful smile.

Are root canals really necessary

Diagnosis of Root Canal

Before a dentist can recommend root canal treatment, he or she must first undertake a series of examination to determine whether the treatment is necessary. This part may be quite challenging because every case is different from the other one. However, one of the most valuable aid that the dentist will use to determine if aroot canal is necessary is anx-ray. With the advancement of technology today, the patient is able to see the extent of damage to his or her tooth right from the dentist chair. This has been made possible by the use of radiographs that displays results on a monitor.

During the radiographs, the dentist will examine a number of things that will help him or her make a decision. Among the things, the dentist will be on the lookout for include periapical radiolucency. Signs that might indicate that a tooth requires and endodontic therapy is the presence of dark spot on the tooth. Dentists or endodontists refer to this type of dark spot as radiolucency. The dark spot indicates that something has resulted in changing of tooth density of the bone in the area. This is usually a sign of infection present in the nerve space inside the tooth. It may also result if the tooth was exposed to physical trauma. Other obvious signs that the dentist will be looking at on the radiographs include advanced tooth decay and infection.

Root Canal Procedure

Depending on the extent of the procedure, root canal treatment usually requires two visits to the dentist. If the procedure is very complex, your dentist will refer you to a specialist in root canal known as an endodontist.

Your dentist or endodontist will first examine the x-ray result and may make more if he or she feels necessary. This allows them to build a clear picture of the treatment and assess the extent of damage your tooth has undergone. The treatment will be done under local anaesthesia. This is a painkilling medication that helps in numbing a specific area of your body. Though in some cases where the tooth is dead, it might not be necessary to use the treatment. In such situations, your dentist may use other special local anaesthetic techniques to ensure that the treatment is painless.

Removing the Pulp
After the tooth has been numbed, your dentist will place a small protective sheet known as dental dam over the affected tooth to isolate it from others. It also helps to keep the tooth clean and away from saliva during the treatment. The dam will also help you not to breath or swallow any chemicals the dentist will use during the procedure. Your dentist will then open the tooth through the crown using some special dental instruments. The opening is used to access the tissue centre of the tooth known as the pulp. The dentist will then remove any infected pulp. If you have adental abscess, your dentist will be able to drain it out through this opening. A dental abscess is a puss filled swelling that occurs in your mouth.

Cleaning and Filling the Root Canal

After removing the pulp, your dentist will then clean and enlarge the pulp so that it can be easy to fill. Usually, the root canal is very narrow making it a bit challenging to fill. Your dentist will use some special instruments to enlarge the hole and shape it in a way that it will be easy to fill. This part of the procedure may take some hours to complete and may even require more than one dental visit. Different types of teeth have different numbers of roots. The incisor and the canine only have one root while the premolars or molars have two or three roots. The length of the treatment will greatly depend on the number of the root canals. The more root canal a tooth has, the longer the treatment will take.

If the dentist needs several sessions to complete the treatment, he or she may apply some medication to the tooth to kill any remaining bacteria. He will then use a temporary filling to seal the tooth. The dentist may also give you some antibiotics if the root had a bacterial infection. This will help in preventing any further infection.

Sealing and Fixing the Tooth

During your next appointment, the dentist will remove the temporary filling and replace it with a permanent one. He will then seal the tooth along with the filling to prevent any further infection. A tooth that has been filled using tooth filing is more prone to breaking than healthy unrestored teeth. Your dentist may suggest placing a dental crown on top of it to prevent any such occurrence. In some other case, a root may darken especially if it had suffered physical trauma. There are several measures your dentist can apply to prevent discolouration of such a tooth. For example, he can use some tooth whitening chemicals.


A crown is a cap used to cover a real tooth completely. The dentist may see it necessary to use a crown after endodontic therapy to prevent any tooth fracturing. A crown can be made out of a number of materials including:

  • Porcelain or metal (or both)
  • Powderless glass
  • A ceramic material

While placing a dental crown, the dentist will reduce the size of your teeth and use a crown to replace what has been removed. The dentist or endodontist will take a mould of your tooth to ensure that the crown is the right shape and size. The crown is supposed to cover the tooth completely. If there is any part of the tooth left uncovered after the treatment, a post can be cemented in the root canal to help the crown stay in place.

What are the Results of Root Canal Treatment?

Root canal treatment is always very effective at saving the tooth and getting rid of theinfection. Several studies have found that over 90% of root-treated teeth have stayed for up to 10 years. Studies also show that placing a crown on top of a root-treated tooth is responsible for prolonging its life. If a patient practices good hygiene, the treated tooth will last for a long time. Some of the factors that influence the survival rate of a root-treated tooth include:

– How well you maintain your teeth

– How many natural teeth are remaining

– The biting force on the tooth

However, if an infection returns to the treated tooth, the same tooth can be treated again. Alternatively, if the treatment has already been done and some infections remained, your dentist can use a small operation known as an apicoectomy to treat the infection. This small operation is used to remove the tip of the root to treat the infection.

Aftercare Tips for Root Canal Treatment

While root canal treatment is a very straightforward procedure that offers great outcomes, it affects the tooth structure,and it’s important that the patient follow some few aftercare tips. This is to ensure that the tooth heals properly and does not become fractured or damages after the procedure. You should not bite or chew anything on the treated tooth until the dentist restores it. The unrestored tooth can easily fracture. So it’s vital that you see your dentist for restoration as soon as possible. Otherwise, you will need to practice good oral hygiene including brushing twice a day, flossing and regular dental check-ups. Most teeth treated through root canal last just like other natural teeth. In very few cases, a tooth that has undergone the treatment fails to heal or the pain does not go away. Such cases are treated by repeating the treatment. Here are some additional aftercare tips.

– Avoid Crunchy Foods
Even if you are trying as hard not to chew on the treated side of your mouth, taking crunchy or hard foods can increase your risk of fracturing the treated tooth. Avoid such foods until your dentist has placed a permanent restoration on your tooth. Hard food can damage the tooth and in extreme cases that tooth may require extraction. To be on the safe side, try and completely avoid such foods until a final restoration is placed.

– Be Careful While Brushing and Flossing
Of course, you will be required to carry out proper dental hygiene measures such as brushing and flossing. However, try and be extra careful especially if your tooth is still sensitive or gums are still tender. It might be a little bit difficult to brush and floss on the affected tooth but take your time and do it slowly. If you experience any difficulties, visit your dentist so that he or she can reshape the filling if there is need to do that.

– Take Painkillers to Manage Pain and Discomfort
If you feel any painor discomfort after the procedure, take some painkillers. Over-the-counter pain relievers such as aspirin, ibuprofen or acetaminophen may help you control the pain and discomfort. However, in most cases, your dentist will prescribe for you some pain relievers after the treatment.

Bottom Line

Root canal treatment, like all forms of dentistry, has greatly advanced over the past years. What once seemed like an impossible procedure can now be done within a very short time and under minimal discomfort. However, a majority of people still have reservations about root canal treatment and may wonder if tooth extraction is a better option. While there are instances where tooth extraction may be the best way out, the truth of the matter is saving your natural tooth through root canal treatment is much better than extracting it. It’s beneficial on your long-term oral health. So, brighten up that beautiful smile today with root canal therapy.


All Dentists of Springvale Dental Clinic are licensed general dentists, trusted by families in Springvale.