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Root Canal

What is root canal treatment?

Making sure you attend for regular dental check-ups will hopefully avoid potential problems that make this kind of treatment necessary. Unfortunately this is not always the case as compromised teeth that have large/deep fillings in them already, or teeth that have suffered trauma are also susceptible. Having to root fill a tooth is usually caused by decay that has gone untreated.


As a result the decay burrows its way deep into the tooth. The nearer this decay gets to the 'pulp' of the tooth (ie. nerves & blood vessels), the more agitated and inflamed the nerves become causing pain. With inflammation, you need 'expansion' and as there is nowhere inside of the tooth for them to expand to, this will start pain, swelling and finally abscessing. Once the situation has developed into an abscess, it is a sign that the nerve of the tooth has died or is in the process of dying. Although the situation can be eased by a course of antibiotics, the only long-term solution to the problem is to 'root fill' the tooth. In some cases, your dentist will take an x-ray to confirm the problem, but often it is clearly apparent there's infection present. A course of anti-biotics may be prescribed; this is basically to save you from any unnecessary discomfort as anesthetics do not perform as well in the presence of infection.


An alternative measure is for the dentist to extract the nerve there and then with a small file. This isn't generally painful as your dentist will drill a small hole in the top of the tooth and ream the dying matter out. A temporary, medicinal dressing is then placed over the opening until the next appointment. For the second visit, ie. once the nerve(s) has been removed from your tooth, the canals that remain are cleaned out and disinfected. This 'reaming' or filing continues until the dentist is satisfied that each canal is clean and shaped to the correct size to accept the filling material. The material used for the purpose is 'gutta percha' and comes in the form of 'rubbery points'. These are sealed in each canal with a sedative sealant and the excess is then removed.


This is basically the end of the treatment. It is then up to the patient and the dentist to decide on how to conclude the treatment by either topping with a regular filling, or if necessary, by crowning what remains; thus prolonging it's life. It should be noted that removing a nerve from a tooth is something to be avoided if at all possible. Once the 'living' part of a tooth is extracted the individual is left with just the shell of a tooth, which although it may not look much different from any other, is extremely brittle and may discolour over time. This tooth must be looked after in the best way possible as its life is unfortunately going to be compromised.

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