Why a Root Canal?

Root canal, in a nutshell, is a procedure to maintain the existence of a dead tooth.

It’s important to understand that root canal is not a procedure to restore the health of a damaged tooth. Root canal is typically performed when the damaged tooth is beyond saving—essentially, dead—, but is done so that we don’t have to pull the dead tooth out.

Pulling a dead tooth is obviously an option. However, the gap left by the missing tooth can cause various health  issues  from loss of jawbone strength and structure to position shifts of the adjacent teeth among others, besides the obvious aesthetic damages. When these health issues happen, commonly a dental implant along with dental crown or bridge must be implemented, which can cost a lot more than a root canal procedure.

So, there are two main reasons for getting a root canal instead of pulling your tooth and getting an implant: cost-efficiency, and because it’s simpler and more convenient just to keep your natural tooth’s structure, even if it’s essentially dead.

The Root Canal Procedure

So, how is the root canal performed? Deep inside the tooth, beneath the surface we know as enamel and the inside layer called dentin, is the pulp. The pulp is a soft tissue filled with nerves and blood vessels.

When a tooth is damaged, the pulp can be inflamed or infected, often causing abscess deep within the gum tissue.

A root canal is essentially a procedure to remove the pulp, and then the space left behind is carefully cleaned, disinfected, and then sealed. 

The process is relatively simple with very high success rate, and since patients are given local anesthesia, a root canal procedure is typically not very painful. However, after the root canal period, usually the patient will feel a slight numbness and soreness for a few days and up to two weeks. A mild pain can also be expected, and over-the-counter medications are usually sufficient to relieve this. If necessary, the dentist might prescribe a stronger painkiller.

Root Canal Pros and Cons

As with any procedures, there are obviously advantages and disadvantages of the root canal procedure.

The main benefit of the root canal procedure is the preservation of the damaged tooth with no extraction necessary.  You don’t lose bone mass around the tooth, and you won’t need an expensive dental implant to maintain the tooth’s structure.

However, since we are essentially killing the tooth, the remaining tooth will be weaker and more prone to damage and fracture. The tooth is also drier than before, and so more brittle.

To tackle this, commonly a dental crown procedure is implemented as a follow-up, to give the tooth a stronger surface and to prevent it from breaking.

Also, keep in mind that the root canal procedure won’t be 100% clean, and this is why commonly it will take two different appointments to finish the procedure. The fact that each appointment will last a few hours might be a downside for some people.

When Do You Need a Root Canal

The short answer is: when your pulp is badly damaged beyond saving. But, how can your dentist determine whether the pulp is diseased enough and whether another, lighter procedure is an option.

This is why it’s important to have an experienced dental specialist to examine your condition and not rushing through the diagnosing aspect. In general, however, here are some key symptoms the dentist will look for to decide whether a root canal is necessary:

  • Tooth sensitivity and lingering pain

Lingering pain is a major sign that your pulp is badly damaged, which is characterized by overly sensitive sensation in response to hot and cold food or drinks. For example, if you drink cold water and the responding pain won’t go away after a few minutes, we categorize it as lingering pain. In cases with badly damaged pulp, the pain sensation can last for an hour or more, and the nerve is most likely dead.

  • Fistula

Fistula is a condition on the gum that resembles a pimple with yellow, white, or even reddish color. A fistula is filled with pus and blood, and is a major sign of infection.

  • Abscess

Abscess is a condition in your jawbone when the bone doesn’t grow in certain infected areas, leaving a hole. Abscess is usually seen after an x-ray, and is a sign that the root of your tooth (and the pulp) is badly infected.

  • Sudden positional pain

When the pain comes without a stimulus (introduction of hot or cold drinks, for example), or when the pain comes during a sudden body movement, it’s usually a sign of abscess.

  • Surrounding pain

Your jaw, ear, or surrounding teeth are also affected by pain, which can be a sign of an abscess.

Root Canal VS Extraction+Implant

It’s important to understand that in most cases, each dentist will have their own bias. If it’s a dental surgeon, usually they will prefer to go straight to the dental implant, which they are usually more familiar with. On the other hand, an endodontist will be more likely to recommend a root canal.

Ultimately, this will come down to two main factors: cost, that is, if a dental implant is priced similar to a root canal in your area, it’s almost always better to go with extraction and dental implant.

The second factor is how optimistic your dentist is in cleaning the pulp completely, so you wouldn’t need a follow-up treatment. Different cases of infections will determine the success rate of the root canal, and although the average rate is fairly high (above 90%), there’s always the possibility of failure where the pulp is not sealed completely and the bacteria can return for more infections.

End Words

A root canal procedure is essentially a procedure to preserve your severely damaged tooth, especially when the pulp and nerve are already dead. Root canal has a high success rate and the recovery period is only a few days on average. Contact dentists at Skymark Smile Centre to set up an appointment for your root canal treatment.