Root canal therapy
If you’re about to have your first root canal treatment, you might be feeling pretty apprehensive about the whole thing, especially given all the stories floating around. Well, don’t worry — all will be revealed in this step-by-step walk-through of root canal treatment. Knowing what will happen ahead of time is more than half the battle; you will soon learn that it really is much ado about nothing.
So let’s start by dispelling a common myth: Root canal treatment doesn’t cause pain — it relieves it!
At The Root Of It All
Some background will be helpful. A space inside the tooth called the pulp chamber houses the root canal system and pulp — the living tissue that keeps the tooth vital (alive). The pulp includes blood vessels, nerves and connective tissues, and, during childhood, creates the surrounding hard tissues of the tooth.
Endodontic treatment (“endo” – inside; “dont” – tooth), commonly known as root canal treatment, is needed when the pulp becomes inflamed or infected. The causes could be deep tooth decay, repeated dental procedures on one tooth (replacing a large filling, for example), or traumatic damage such as a crack, chip or even a root fracture. Gum disease can also give rise to root canal problems necessitating root canal treatment.
Any of these issues can result in acute inflammation of the pulp, which causes swelling and pressure inside the tooth (that has nowhere to go), leading to tooth pain and, eventually, irreversible damage to the pulp. Once the pulp dies, the pain may subside initially, sometimes to return as an acute (painful) infection spreading into the periapical tissues (“peri” – around; “apex” – end), particularly the bone. It could also become a chronic (long-standing) infection with symptoms ranging from mild to severe.
Generally speaking, whatever the cause of root canal or pulpal disease, root canal or endodontic treatment will be necessary to save the tooth.
In order to make a proper assessment and accurate diagnosis of which tooth is affected and exactly what is causing the pain, a thorough history and examination is necessary, together with a radiographic picture (x-ray) of the tooth or area.