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Root canal treatment (or endodontic treatment) is the procedure we use to save teeth if they become infected at the root. In order to understand this process, let’s look at the basic structure of a tooth:
Enamel – the top layer and the hardest one
Dentine – slightly softer tissue found beneath the enamel
Pulp chamber and root canals – this is where the nerves and blood vessels that keep your teeth alive are found; they connect the tooth to your jawbone
A root canal could become infected as a result of deep decay, a broken filling or trauma to the tooth caused by a fall, for example. If bacteria manage to enter the pulp chamber they will multiply and infect the root canal (or canals, your front teeth usually have one and molars have multiple canals). This is when you will start to experience pain, because the pressure from the inflammation of the pulp is trapped inside the root. If the infection spreads through the bottom of the root, this can cause an abscess in the jaw, which will be very painful.
Permanent teeth can be retained without the tissue in your canals, so if they become infected the infected tissue can be removed to relieve your pain and save your tooth. You will then need to have a procedure carried out by your dentist or endodontist (specialist in root canal treatments) to do this and seal the tooth to prevent recontamination.
Many people worry that endodontic procedures are painful, but this really isn’t true, they actually stop the pain that infected root canals cause. Root canal treatment is performed under local anaesthetic so you won’t feel anything during the operation. You may experience some discomfort afterwards, as you will have to have your mouth open for a long time, but appropriate post-operative instructions will be given.
In the few days after your root canal treatment, you will need to be careful what you eat because you may still feel some soreness from the infection. You should continue to care for your root-treated tooth in the same way as all your other teeth. This means brushing twice a day with fluoride toothpaste, cutting down on sugary foods and drinks and consuming them only at meal times if possible. Of course it’s also important for your dental wellbeing to visit the dentist every six months, and to let us know if you’re experiencing any problems so that we can work with you to resolve them.
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