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Get The Facts About Root Canals and Alternatives to Root Canals

Our Clinic has grown to provide a world class facility for the treatment of tooth loss, dental cosmetics and advanced restorative dentistry.

November 15, 2017
by Springvale Dental Clinic

The root canal treatment is one of the most feared dental treatment. The mention of the words alone is enough to send a quiver up to the spine to most people. Every year, there are thousands of patients all over the world that desperately need to alleviate a severe toothache or fix aserious cavity. In most cases, this can only be done through a root canal procedure. Despite the misconception, that root canal procedure is painful, very few patients report bad experience during the treatment. For most of them, there is little to no pain at all. So, next time you are confronted with the words ‘root canal’ and there is no way you can avoid it, get brave and stand up to the fear. With the advancement of technology today, the process has become painless and involves little discomfort. This post is going to discuss more on the facts about root canals and alternatives to aroot canal.

What is Root Canal?

To start with, it is important to understand exactly what root canal is. A root canal is a treatment that is primarily used to repair or save a tooth that is badly injured or decayed. During the treatment, the pulp and the nerve are removed, and the inner part of the tooth is cleaned and sealed. Without this type of treatment, the tissue surrounding the affected tooth will be infected, and abscesses may form. A root canaltreatment is a term used to define the natural cavity within the centre of the tooth. The pulp is the soft area within a root canal.

Understanding the Facts about Root Canal

There is quite a myriad of reasons why a patient may require a root canal. The most common reasons include deep cavities, damaged teeth, trauma from previous dental procedures or abscesses. Root canal treatment is carried out to repair a tooth that has already become inflamed or infected. As infections build up around the teeth, bacteria also starts to accumulate around it. If this is left untreated, it can lead to tooth loss. In some instances, aroot canal may be necessary because a swelling has developed on the patient face around the tooth that has been affected. If you notice anything like this, it is advisable that you visit your dentist as soon as possible.
Before getting a root canal treatment, it is important that you be aware of the whole procedure and what to expect. It is also good to know the fact behind some misconception that surrounds root canal treatment. This knowledge may help you as a patient feel that you are more in control of the situation. It dispels most of the misconceptions surrounding the procedure and allows you to face the treatment with a rational mind. With adequate knowledge of what happens, you will not have to fear words like needle and drill. However, if you are struggling with real fear associated with aroot canal, you can schedule for non-invasive consultation with your dentist. During this session, no procedure is going to take place; you will use it to familiarize yourself with the procedure and ask your dental specialist any relevant questions. Patients who have done this before say that this initial visit helps to ease their nerves with just the simple act of being in a surgery room. You are more likely to be comfortable to wait for surgery in an environment that you feel familiar with.

What Happens During a Root Canal Treatment?

The treatment requires one or more visits to the dentist or endodontist. An endodontist is a dental professional who specializes in causes, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of injuries and diseases of human nerve or dental pulp. The choice of having the procedure performed by an endodontist or just a dentist to some degree depends on the extent of damage or difficulty of the procedure. When you visit the dentist during your initial visit, he will be in a position to advise you who is best suited to perform the procedure.

The first step during the procedure is to take an X-ray to determine the shape of the root canal and also see if there are any signs of infections by bacteria around the bone. The dentist will then use local anesthesia so that the area can become numb. However, in most cases, the pulp is normally dead, and the dentist has the option of not using it. The next step involves keeping the area dry and free from saliva. The dentist does this by placing a dumb rubber around the tooth.

The dentist willmake a hole into theaffected tooth to access the pulp. He will then remove all the pulp with the decayed nerve tissue along with any available debris from the tooth. The dentist accomplishes the cleaning process by the use of root canal files. A series of files will then be used to increase the diameter and shape it. As the dentist continues with the process, he or she will periodically use sodium hypochlorite or water to flush away debris. The dentist then seals the tooth once it is thoroughly clean. The dentist may seal the tooth on the same day or may wait for a week. The dentist only chooses to seal it after a week if there is some infection that he wants to put medication to clear it up. If the dentist fails to complete the root canal treatment on the same day, he will place a temporary filling on the outer part of the hole to keep it away from contamination from saliva and food debris.

The next appointment will involve filling the interior of the tooth. The dentist uses a rubber compound known as guttapercha or sealer paste to place into the root canal. A filing is placed to fill the exterior access hole that was created at the beginning of the treatment.

The final step of root canal treatment involves further restoration of the tooth. This is because a tooth that requires a root canal is often one that has a larger filing or extensive decay, a crown or other restoration may be placed. Your dentist will discuss with you if there is any need for further dental work.

Dentists tooth plastic model with screw implant for teaching, learning and patients in dental office showing teeth and gums.

Facts about Root Canal Treatment

– Root Canal Treatment is a Painful Procedure

A root canal treatment rarely causes pain. As a matter of fact, root canal treatments are done to relieve a patient from the pain triggered by a dental infection or an inflammation of the pulp chamber. Also, sophisticated anesthetics are used to ensure the patient feels no pain. If a serious dental cavity or an abscess has developed, there is expected to be a lot of pain. Therefore, this is the most suitable way of treating and removing it.

Misconceptions about painful root canal treatments go back at the time when anesthetics were not invented. Obviously, people in the 17th century were terrified of having their infected teeth treated because they felt everything during the treatment. Today, this is not the case. If performed well, a root canal treatment should feel just like having a regular dental filling.

– Tooth Pain Will Vanish Immediately

Yes, root canal treatment lessens dental pain. However, no treatment comes without some sensitivity and a little swelling immediately after the procedure. Your teeth and gums are certain to be a bit sore if you’ve had a dentist poke round in your mouth with needles and drills. The pain should be mild and short-lived. Most patients experience sensitivities and minor aches within the first few weeks after treatment. Afterwards, you ought not to have any dental pain whatsoever. Pain in the infected tooth will disappear because the dentist has gotten rid of the bacteria. The dentist may advise you to take some painkillers to help ease the post-treatment soreness.

– Root Canals Kill the Nerves Inside Teeth

There are some truth and a whole lot of misconception in this myth. A root canal does remove the nerves in the tooth. However, these nerves have no vital function once all the adult teeth have fully developed. This is the reason why root canals are not performed in children because nerves drive the development of adult teeth. Once all teeth have fully grown, nerves are only a first alert defense mechanism. Nerves react to stimuli and alert the person of any problem by causing pain and aches. Evidently, if a root canal treatment is required, then the alert system has worked. However, nerves are not required if the root has been seriously damaged for the tooth to require emptying.

– Root Canals are Expensive

This is a tough myth to dismiss since each dentist has their own rates. As much as a root canal may be pricey, it does save your tooth and helps you keep it and use it to continue with your normal chewing functions. Getting a root canal treatment and a dental crown remains to be cheaper than a tooth extraction and then replacing it with a dental implant or a bridge. Root canal treatment cost varies from how many canals a tooth has, who is performing the treatment or on whether it is the first time the root canal is achieved or retreatment.

– Teeth Remain Sensitive Afterwards

There ought not to be any sensitivity or pain around the treated tooth once the swelling and soreness have eased. If the pain persists, it is best to consult your dentist immediately. There might be a concealed root canal that still requires removing or some hidden problems that the dentists couldn’t detect during the treatment. Once more, this does not often happen, so you do not have to worry. Even then, all you should do is revisit your dentist and get some advice you on what to do. If the root has been seriously damaged that it cannot be saved, your dentist will then recommend an extraction.

– Root Canals are Likely to Fail

This might have been true about 50 years ago, but root canal treatment has been advanced over the recent years. The rate of longevity success is at a remarkable 85%. So, while no one can be sure that you will not develop a problem later in life or require a crown or a filling replaced, possibilities of this happening is minimal. In case a root canal gets infected again in future, there are high chances that your dentist will be able to repair and treat it. In cases where a tooth gets severely damaged or fractured, your dentist will have no choice but to extract it. If this occurs, there are many options for replacement. You will not be left with a gap since this accelerates degeneration of the surrounding teeth.

– Power Painkillers are Required

The pain that is felt after a root canal treatment is because of inflammation around the tooth. It only lasts for a short period. The inflammation is mostly treated with common painkillers like anti-inflammatory drugs such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen. In cases where a more severe pain that persists weeks or months after the treatment, it is advisable to consult your endodontist or dentist to search if there are any possible complications.

– Root Canal Treatment is a Long procedure that needs several appointments

Nowadays, a root canal may only take between an hour and two hours if there are no complications involved. The requirednumber of appointments depends on the condition of the tooth and number of canals the tooth has. In occasions where an infection is severe, your endodontist or dentist will place some drug inside the tooth to aid disinfect the inside of the roots and later finish with the root canal after a few days. But if there is no complications or infection, the process can be done in a single appointment.

– Root Canal Patients Need a Crown

It is true for many root canal patients. As a matter of fact, it is very uncommon for a dentist not to ask you to come back later for follow up repairs. In other cases, a crown and post may be fixed soon after the treatment, but since it is a lengthy procedure on its own, it is often scheduled separately. Your dentist may recommend a filling other than a crown, but the final results are pretty much similar. A crown or filling is needed to offer the empty tooth support and prevents it from being re-infected. Basically, once you’ve had a root canal treatment, a dental filling should be the easiest treatment in the world since it is so much faster to complete. Before undertaking any treatment, it is advisable to have a talk with your dentist on what is required of you after the treatment and how to properly take care of your tooth in the interim.

– Root Canals Cause Physical Sickness

It is one of the most persistent and very damaging myths that for some reasons seems to linger in online circles. As a matter of fact, no scientific research has ever found a link between physical sickness and root canals. The debate is that the emptied tooth structures can be infected and these bacteria can cause a disease in other body parts. There is no evidence found to prove that the bacteria present in the tooth can cause any illness. As a matter of fact, healthy teeth are filled with bacteria. Therefore, it does not make sense to think that a root canal treatment could cause physical sickness. In case you do feel unsure or anxious about the treatment, it is wise to talk to your dentist about the anxiety. It is your dentist duty to dismiss some of these dangerous misconceptions.

Alternatives to Root Canal

Most people dread the mention of the words root canal and would want to avoid the process as much as possible. Others cite financial constraints as the reason they would want to use alternative methods to root canal. The question is if there are any other alternatives to aroot canal. The answer to that question is yes, there are other alternatives to root canal, but it also depends on the damageextent to your tooth. When your dentist recommends root canal for you, it means that the extent of damage has gone too far. However, there are still some few dental alternatives that might save the situation. Here are some of them.

– Dental Implant

A dental implant is referred to as an artificial root placedon the jaw so that it can be able to hold a replacement tooth. Dental implants are perfect alternatives to root canal for people whose tooth are damaged beyond possible repair. The dental specialist surgically fixes the implant. After the implants have been fixed, they are allowed to integrate with the jaw bone after a certain period. Having a dental implant placed is the closest thing that resembles the natural teeth since it can stand on its own without gaining support from other teeth. Most dental implants are made of titanium since titanium is among the mental that osseointegrates with the jaw bone without the body recognizing it as a foreign object.

– Dental Bridges

Dental bridges are the other alternative one can use to root canal. Dental bridges the gap left by a missing tooth through the support of other teeth. Since bridges are custom made by the dentist, they are made to resemble the natural colour of the teeth. It is very hard to notice that someone have dental bridges.

– Ozone Gas

Another alternative though not commonly used is the use of ozone gas to irrigate the root cavity. Ozone enters into the tubules of the tooth beyond the drilled area. This allows it to kill bacteria and enables the dentist to save the tooth. The method possibly averts the use of root canal. However, irrespective of how the method can be effective in the short run, in the long run, the need for root canal cannot be averted.

– Medication

In other cases, a tooth infection may excellently respond to medications, making a root canal treatment needless. In some occasions, the antibiotic therapy might only be postponing the unavoidable, and the root canal will be required after all. The most common antibiotics that are recommended by dentists for root canal infections include Keflex, penicillin VK and amoxicillin. In the meantime, some patients might need a pain reliever as the antibiotic takes effect in the body. Most anti-inflammatory non-steroidal medications such as ibuprofen work in many patients. Sometimes a patient might need a stronger painkiller to relieve the pain while waiting for the antibiotic to fight the infection.

– Sedative Filling

Occasionally when a dentist is replacing a dental filling or removing decay, he might find that the tooth decay is so close to the nerve chamber. In such a case, a root canal treatment is considered. In some other cases, the dentist may place a sedative or medicated filling. This prevents the nerve pain that makes a root canal essential. The sedative filling is temporary therefore a permanentfiling will be placed approximately a month after placing the medicated or sedative filling.

– Extraction

Another cheaper, quicker and sometimes less painful alternative to aroot canal is to have the tooth removed. Tooth extraction can be executed by a general dentist or an oral surgeon. In most of these cases, it is suggested to have the tooth replaced with a dental implant, bridge or a partial denture. Tooth replacement will hike up the tooth extraction cost significantly. Therefore, it is essential to budget for a tooth replacement before having your tooth extracted whenever possible. In other occasions, tooth impressions are taken before the extraction to help in creating a new tooth that will look, function just like your extracted tooth.

– Pulp Capping

This is a procedure that is used in dental restorations to prevent the pulp tissue from necrosis after being exposed during tooth cavity formation. When a tooth caries is being removed, most of the softened and infected tooth enamel and dentin are also removed. This can cause the pulp tissues to be exposed resulting to pulpitis

Bottom Line

Finally, as we have seen above, there is no reason to feel scared about a root canal procedure. Most of the things that are said about root canal treatment are just misconceptions and not facts. However, if you still feel some fear, it is best if you can talk to your dentist. The more he or she understands you, the more comfortable you will be. Also, don’t feel embarrassed about the state of your teeth, the chances are that your dentist has seen worse.


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