What is a root canal?
A root canal – also known as ‘endontics’ – is a dental procedure used to treat and repair a tooth that has become infected at the centre. This can happen as a result of tooth decay, leaky fillings or damage to the teeth from trauma. The procedure involves removing the nerve and pulp – the soft area within the root of the tooth – from the tooth, and then cleaning and sealing it. Although this may sound daunting, there is no reason that the procedure should cause any amount of pain when performed by a properly trained dentist.
It is possible to require a root canal and experience no noticeable symptoms. However, symptoms can include pain upon applying pressure to the tooth (for example, when chewing), swelling in the gums, discolouration of the tooth and prolonged sensitivity to changes in hot and cold temperature.
The root canal procedure
First, the dentist will most of the time numb the tooth with anaesthetic in order to minimise discomfort during the procedure. An opening is then made through the crown of the tooth – the part that’s visible in the mouth – down to the pulp chamber at the centre of the root canal system. Special files are used to clean the pulp and infection from the tooth canals, which are then shaped by the dentists to accommodate the filling material. Next, the canals are filled with a permanent material in order to keep them free of contamination. A temporary filling material is placed on top to seal the opening, which remains until the tooth receives a permanent filling or better a crown.
It’s important to continue taking care of your tooth even after the root canal procedure has been completed. Take care not to exert too much pressure onto the crown whilst it’s still tender, and, if you smoke, it is advised that you stop in order to reduce the risk of further infection.