Root Canal Treatment For Tooth Decay – Common Queries And Questions

Root Canal Treatment is a tooth decay treatment measure that’s widely used across the world. Some brief insights into the parts of a tooth will help you understand the root canal treatment better. Teeth primarily have two parts:

  • The crown (the part of the tooth that is visible in the mouth)
  • The root (extends into the bone of the jaw, anchoring the tooth in position)

Every tooth has four layers:

  • Enamel: The hard outer layer that acts as a protective helmet or shell, covering the crown
  • Dentine: Softer material that supports the enamel and forms most of the tooth
  • Cementum: Hard material that coats the root surface
  • Dental Pulp: The soft tissue at the center of the tooth

What Is The Root Canal System?

The root canal system contains the dental pulp and extends from the crown of the tooth to the end of the root. A single tooth can have more than one root and root canal.

root canal treatment

Root canal treatment is used to deal with a highly infected tooth, without removing it.

What Does Root Canal Treatment Involve?

Root canal treatment, also known as ‘endodontic therapy’, is a procedure carried out to repair and save a badly damaged or infected tooth instead of removing it. The term ‘root canal treatment’ is used because under this procedure, the canals inside a tooth’s root are cleaned.

Is Root Canal Treatment A Painful Procedure?

Decades ago, root canal treatments were very painful.

With advancements in the dental field and the development of local anesthetics, most people who undergo this treatment face minor or no pain. In fact, living with a decayed or infected tooth is more painful than going through the procedure.

What Are The Alternatives To A Root Canal Treatment?

Alternatives include the removal of the damaged tooth, which in turn will be replaced with artificial substitutes such as dental implants, bridges, or removable partial dentures.

Will Any Decayed Tooth Require A Root Canal Treatment?

No, only a badly decayed tooth with a deep cavity needs a root canal treatment.

In such situations, bacteria enters the pulp of the tooth. When left untreated, bacteria and the decaying material can cause a serious infection or a tooth abscess (accumulation of pus), leading to the death of the pulp, bone loss, and loss of the tooth itself.

What Symptoms Will A Badly Decayed Tooth Have?

The symptoms of tooth decay may be variable. They include:

  • A hole in the tooth
  • Tooth pain
  • Gum swelling (like a pimple)
  • Sensitivity to hot and cold foods
  • Swelling around the face and neck

What Are The Steps Involved In Root Canal Treatment?

A root canal procedure requires one or more visits to the dentist and can be performed by a dentist or endodontist (is a dentist who specializes in the causes, diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of diseases and injuries to the human dental pulp or the nerve of the tooth).

Step 1: At the start of the treatment, the dentist will take an X-ray to see the shape of the root canals and determine if there are any signs of infection in the surrounding bone.

Step 2: Your dentist or endodontist will then use local anesthesia to numb the area near the tooth. Anesthesia may not always be necessary, since the nerve may be dead.  However most dentists might still anesthetize the area to calm you down.

Step 3: Next, your dentist will place a rubbery sheet called the rubber dam around the tooth to keep the area clean, dry, and free of saliva during treatment.

Step 4: A hole will then be drilled into the tooth. The pulp, along with bacteria and the decayed nerve tissue, will be removed from the tooth once this is done.

Step 5: Dentists use certain instruments/tools known as root canal files for the cleaning process. These files are placed into the access hole and worked down the full length of the tooth to clean and scrape the sides of the root canals.

Step 6: Saline and certain chemicals like sodium hypochlorite are used periodically to flush and remove the debris.

Step 7: If there is an infection in the tooth, your dentist may use medication inside the tooth to clear it up. The root canal treatment is completed over subsequent visits.

Step 8: The dentist will also seal the tooth with a temporary material once it is thoroughly cleaned, in order to prevent contaminants like saliva and food getting into the tooth between appointments.

On the other hand, in the absence of an infection, your dentist may choose to seal the tooth on the same day. Some dentists use a sealer paste and a rubber compound called gutta percha to fill the prepared root canal.

Step 9: The final step involves restoring the tooth to its original shape and size. Invariably a tooth that needs a root canal is one that has a large cavity. For this reason, it needs to be protected from future damage for it to return to its normal function. To achieve this, the dentist will place a crown (a realistic-looking artificial tooth) over the treated tooth.

Sometimes, a metal post must first be inserted into the root canal for structural support and to keep the crown in place.

Your dentist would be the best person to clarify any doubts regarding the root canal procedure.

What Does The Post Procedural Care Involve?

Once the root canal treatment has been completed, avoid chewing or biting on hard foods until the tooth is fitted with a crown. Your restored tooth may feel sensitive or uncomfortable for a few days. However, the pain will be much lower and bearable.

Painkillers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen can be taken to relieve mild discomfort. It is appropriate that you consult your dentist before taking any medication.

What Is The Success Rate Of The Procedure?

Most root canal treatments are successful, but in rare cases, the presence of a recurring infection may necessitate a re-treatment. When re-treating a tooth, the root canal filling material is taken out, and the canal is cleaned, shaped, and filled again.

Remember: Taking up regular dental check-ups with your dentist, taking good care of your teeth by brushing and flossing, and choosing healthy, tooth-friendly snacks will ensure that you don’t have to go through a root canal treatment during your lifetime!


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