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FAQs - Root canal treatment

A root canal procedure is a procedure by which the nerve, (pulp tissue) , is removed from the inside of the tooth. There are many causes of why the nerve in the tooth becomes sore. Decay and trauma are the two most common causes. This irritation of the nerve is called pulpitis.

The tooth is held into the jawbone by 1-3 roots, depending on the tooth. Inside each root, is an area called the pulp chamber. The nerve branches off from the centre of the tooth into each root. Whenever the nerve becomes sore and irritated, the nerve begins to die. This dead nerve tissue and miscellaneous debris needs to be removed from the inside of the tooth to treat any infection and to help prevent future infections.

The root canal procedure is a relatively painless procedure and many patients are relieved when the tooth no longer hurts them anymore. This procedure is also a necessary procedure in order to save the tooth. If an abscessed tooth is left untreated, other dental problems can occur such as bone loss, swelling, and severe toothaches.

When the nerve is removed from the inside of the tooth, the blood supply is eliminated from inside the tooth as well. The tooth eventually becomes brittle, and depending on the size of the filling used to close the tooth after the root canal, the forces from grinding, eating, and even talking may cause the tooth to break. Failing to have a crown placed on the tooth may cause this to happen.  When a brittle, root treated tooth breaks, it often breaks down into the root.   Such a situation can not be salvaged and the tooth will have to get removed.  The placement of a crown could have prevented this from happening.

Myth #1: Root Canal Therapy Is Painful
Root canal therapy is almost always preformed because a tooth is causing pain from an irreversible condition. Pulpitis, an infected pulp, broken teeth, or a slowly dying nerve are all common reasons for root canal therapy.

Root canal therapy is used to alleviate pain. Most people who have root canal therapy admit they did not experience any pain during the appointment and felt better afterward.
According to the American Association of Endodontists, the perception that root canal therapy is painful stems from early treatment methods used to perform the procedure. In addition, if you are suffering from pain on the day of your appointment, your apprehension and fear may heighten the sensations you feel during the procedure.

Myth #2: Completing a Root Canal Requires Several Appointments
Root canal therapy may be completed in one to two appointments. Factors that determine the number of appointments necessary to complete a root canal include:

  • The extent of the infection
  • The difficulty of the root canal
  • Whether a referral to a root canal specialist, known as an endodontist, becomes necessary

Restoring the tooth after root canal therapy is necessary in order to ensure the tooth functions properly. The appointments necessary to completely restore the tooth, in essence, should not be considered part of the root canal process.

Myth #3: Root Canal Therapy Causes Illness
The idea that bacteria trapped inside an endodontically-treated tooth will cause illness, such as heart disease, kidney disease, or arthritis, stems from research conducted by Dr. Weston Price from 1910 to 1930 -- almost 100 years ago. Recent attempts to confirm Dr. Price's research has been unsuccessful in proving that root canal treatment causes illness.
Bacteria can be found in the mouth at anytime. Even teeth free from decay and gum disease have tested positive for bacteria.

Myth #4: Teeth Need to Hurt Before Root Canal Therapy Becomes Necessary
Teeth that require root canal therapy are not always painful. In fact, teeth that are already dead may require root canal therapy to prevent the tooth from becoming infected.
Your dentist will examine your teeth thoroughly during your regular check-up. It is usually during this routine appointment where your dentist will discover a tooth that has died or is on its way. Tests used to confirm a dead tooth include:

  • Temperature testing
  • Percussion testing
  • Using a pulp vitality machine

Myth #5: The Benefits of Root Canal Therapy Don't Last Very Long
A common misconception is that the benefits of root canal therapy don't last very long after the procedure has been completed. This myth originated after patients experienced their tooth breaking months after a root canal was performed on their tooth.
Technically, it is not the root canal that has failed; it is the restoration on the tooth that has failed.
The placement of a crown would probably have prevented the tooth from breaking.