23 August 2020

What are root canals and why do I need one?

Root canal dentist Heidelberg

What is a root canal?

A root canal is a type of dental treatment, done when the nerve of a tooth (which is located in the middle of the tooth) is dead or damaged beyond repair. 

 The aim of a root canal is to remove the diseased or dead nerve tissue, treat the tooth internally with antibiotics and replace the now empty nerve chamber with fillers. 

Thus, after a root canal, your tooth will look and function similar to before but will not have a vital nerve supply.

Why do I need a root canal?

You might need a root canal in a situation where bacteria has been allowed to enter the nerve chamber and cause infection or a traumatic incident has caused damage to the nerve tissue. The most common reasons include dental decay, trauma, cracks/fractures in teeth, and very deep fillings

Will a root canal save my tooth?

Ideally yes, the aim of a root canal is to eradicate infection and restore the tooth back to its normal function.

Are there any possible complications after a root canal?

The success rate of root canal treatments is high, ranging between 85-95%. 

However, although not common, complications after a root canal treatment can occur. This could happen if the tooth did not heal completely after the first treatment, secondary infection took place or the tooth cracked/fractured as the tooth structure was not adequately protected after root canal treatment.

This can happen shortly after the treatment, of even up to many years after.

In these cases, the options can be root canal re-treatment (although this is not always possible) or extraction of the tooth

What does a root canal treatment involve?

A root canal treatment generally takes place over 2-5 appointments.

The first couple of appointments will involve removing the diseased nerve tissue, cleaning the nerve chamber and placing antibiotic paste into that space. A temporary filling will be placed in the tooth between each appointment.

Once the infection seems to have been eradicated, the nerve chamber will have fillers placed in it. You may have a temporary or permanent filling placed at the end of this appointment.

After a root canal procedure, it is generally recommended to have an onlay or crown placed on the tooth. This is to completely seal the tooth and make it stronger. Without an onlay or crown, the tooth will be highly susceptible to cracking/fracturing.

Why do people hate getting root canals?

People often hate the idea of root canals as they fear that it will be painful. However, a root canal is often no more painful than getting a filling. 

You will have local anaesthesia given at the start of each root canal appointment so it shouldn’t be a painful procedure. However, it does involve numerous and longer appointments which can get tiring. 

There are things we will do to ease that discomfort including use mouth support to help you keep your jaws open without straining, and proper supportive neck and back cushioning. 

How should I take care of my tooth after getting a root canal?

There are 3 main things you can do to help protect your tooth after a root canal:

  1. Have an onlay or crown placed- as discussed earlier, this will seal the tooth and make it significantly stronger.
  2. Maintain good oral hygiene- this includes brushing 2x daily with a fluoridated toothpaste and flossing once a day.
  3. Seeing your dentist for a checkup and clean every 6 months - his is essential in keeping the tooth (and all your teeth!) healthy and detecting any problems early. Healthy gums are also vital in preventing infections so a clean at the dentist every 6 months is crucial.