Root Canal Treatment

root-canal

The root canal is a pretty common dental procedure. According to the American Association of Endodontists, over 15 million root canals are done every year in the United States alone.

But should you be concerned about a root canal infection? And are there any possible complications after it you should know about?

What are root canal infections?

Teeth aren’t solid all the way through — they’re made up of layers. The hard, outer surface of a tooth is called enamel. The inner layer is called dentin and is a porous, almost sponge-like tissue. At the center of each tooth is a collection of soft tissue called the pulp.

The pulp contains the nerves and blood vessels that allow the tooth to grow. It’s full of cells called odontoblasts that keep the tooth healthy.

A root canal removes the pulp of a tooth that’s been infected or damaged by tooth decay or other injuries. it can save teeth and is considered very safe.

Root canal infections aren’t common, but there’s a small chance of a tooth becoming infected even after it is performed.

What are the symptoms?

A little pain immediately after a root canal procedure is normal. You may have discomfort and tenderness that will last a few days after the procedure. You might have mild pain for a week after.

See your dentist if you continue to feel intense pain for more than a week after the procedure, especially if the pain still feels just as uncomfortable or worse than before the procedure was done.

Sometimes, you can get a delayed root canal infection on a tooth that’s pain-free for some time. A tooth that’s been treated with a root canal may not heal fully and could become painful or diseased months or even years after treatment.

When treatment is needed

Root canal treatment is only required when dental X-rays show that the pulp has been damaged by a bacterial infection.

The pulp will begin to die if it’s infected by bacteria, allowing the bacteria to then multiply and spread.

The symptoms of a pulp infection include:

  • pain when eating or drinking hot or cold food and drink
  • pain when biting or chewing
  • a loose tooth

As the infection progresses, these symptoms often disappear as the pulp dies.

Your tooth then appears to have healed, but the infection has spread through the canal system.

You eventually get further symptoms such as:

  • pain when biting or chewing returning
  • swelling of the gum near the affected tooth
  • pus oozing from the affected tooth
  • facial swelling
  • the tooth becoming a darker color

It’s important to see your dentist if you develop toothache. If your tooth is infected, the pulp cannot heal by itself.

There may also be less chance of the treatment working if the infection within your tooth becomes established.

Antibiotics, a medicine to treat bacterial infections, are not effective in treating root canal infections.

How to treat root canal?

To treat the infection, the bacteria need to be removed.

This can be done by either:

  • removing the bacteria from the root canal system
  • removing the tooth (extraction)

But removing the tooth is not usually recommended as it’s better to keep as many of your natural teeth as possible.

After the bacteria have been removed, the root canal is filled and the tooth sealed with a filling or crown.

In most cases, the inflamed tissue near the tooth will heal naturally.

This means the procedure should be painless and no more unpleasant than having a filling.

Root canal treatment is usually successful. In about 9 out of 10 cases a tooth can survive for up to 10 years after root canal treatment.

Recovering from treatment

It’s important to look after your teeth when recovering from treatment.

You should avoid biting on hard foods until your treatment is complete.

After your final treatment, your restored tooth should no longer be painful, although it may feel sensitive for a few days.

You can take over-the-counter painkillers, such as paracetamol or ibuprofen, to relieve any discomfort.

Return to your dentist if you still have pain or swelling after using painkillers.

In most cases, it’s possible to prevent the need for further root canal treatment by:

  • keeping your teeth clean 
  • not eating too much sugary food
  • giving up smoking if you smoke

Resources:

healthline.com

NHS.uk

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