Endodontics – Treatment Of A Root Canal Infected Tooth

Burton Dentist Mike Allen, explains what happens during this often misunderstood treatment

Everybody will have heard the term ‘root canal’. Most people will probably not have had this treatment, but will almost certainly have built up a picture of what it entails and how ‘painful’ it is. For many years now, it has become the standard for a high level of pain and often used on TV and in films with sayings like ‘I’d rather have root canal treatment than that’ to indicate their intense dislike of the subject that they are discussing.

It is hardly surprising then, that when some patients are told that they need to have this treatment at our Burton dental practice, a look of worry and even fear can be seen on their face. For all but the most nervous dental patient, we are usually able to reassure them about this treatment; although of course it would be great if it was better understood so that those fears did not exist in the first place.

Why are some people afraid of a root canal treatment?

A lot of this is based on hearsay, often from people who have not had the procedure. It is likely that it has passed into legend as the most painful thing imaginable from a time when dentistry was much more rudimentary and unrefined than it is today. Although it is likely that a very small number of patients had a bad experience and this was quickly passed on by word of mouth, it is also true that in the fairly distant past, a root canal treatment would have been more difficult, largely due to the fact that x-rays and scans were not so widely used. This is significant as it would not have been possible in most cases to detect if an abscess was present at the time of the treatment. Without wishing to give you nightmares, you can probably imagine how painful that would be.

Modern treatment has changed….

We understand that some people do suffer from a level of dental phobia and these are likely to be the ones most concerned about this treatment. The team at Mike Allen’s Dental Practice though are experienced at putting patients at ease and, with our experience and modern dental equipment, patients should not be concerned.

We always take x rays and scans before a root canal treatment in order to check for abscesses and should any be found, they will be treated before the procedure itself can go ahead.

What happens during the treatment?

In order to better understand the treatment, it is important to know where the root canals are located. As the name suggests, these are in the roots of the teeth. This is a more difficult area to access than the part above the gum line and is where soft pulp material is stored which includes tiny blood vessels and also, the nerves of the teeth.

So that the root canals can be reached, it is necessary first of all to access the top of the affected tooth. All of this will, of course, be done with the use of a strong local anaesthetic to minimise any discomfort. The infected pulp material will then be removed and the now hollow root canals thoroughly cleaned in order to remove any remaining bacteria and to prevent recurrence of the problem.

The hollow canals are then filled with a material called gutta percha. This is used predominantly for it’s superb sealing qualities which minimises any possibility of reinfection. Finally, a crown is usually attached to the restored tooth so that it will have sufficient strength for everyday use.

Alternatives to root canal treatment

Perhaps unsurprisingly, given the unwarranted reputation of this treatment, many patients ask if there is an alternative treatment. There is usually only one, and that is to extract the tooth. This is something that we rarely recommend and will generally only do so where we feel that a restored tooth would have a poor prognosis. Then we might suggest an extraction and the tooth be replaced with a dental implant or alternative tooth replacement option.

The fact is that a root canal treated tooth is a highly functional one and should offer a reasonable level of strength, typically lasting for a good numbr of years. Although we understand the temptation to have the tooth extracted, this is not a good idea as this can create problems of its own. Naturally, good care will need to be taken of the treated tooth, especially around the gum area. In addition to this, we advise patients not to bite into hard foods with it as it may lack the full strength of a healthy tooth. As the nerves will have been removed, it can be very difficult to judge how hard you are biting, so additional care is recommended.

Having a root canal treatment is nothing to be feared, but we do understand why some people might feel that way. At Mike Allen’s Dental Practice we are always happy to talk our Burton patients through any procedure and answer any questions that they might have. We find that this really helps to put people at ease, so please don’t be afraid to ask.

If you would like to speak to us about a dental problem or to arrange an appointment or consultation, please contact us at our Burton practice on 01283 845345.