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When your tooth has been badly infected or damaged, your Canberra dentist would recommend root canal therapy as a last resort to save the tooth and avoid extraction.

Root canal is probably the most negatively referenced dental procedure around. No thanks to inaccurate media depictions, people often assume that root canal procedures are more painful than they really are. These misconceptions need to be countered so that patients will not put off treatment out of irrational fear, but make a considered decision based on facts and common sense.

To clear the air around the maligned dental procedure, I’ve put together a list of questions that people generally inquire about the root canal treatment.

What is a root canal treatment and what does it involve?

At the centre of every tooth is a natural cavity known as the root canal.

Located within the root canal is the pulp, which is what keeps the tooth healthy by supplying it with nutrients and moisture. The pulp can become damaged when the tooth sustains a deep injury. This will disrupt the internal delivery of reparative elements required to maintain the overall health of the tooth.

The root canal procedure simply refers to the removal of the affected nerve and pulp in order to save the tooth from further damage or infection. This is then followed by cleansing the inside of the tooth before sealing it with a canal filler.

Pulp damage can occur due to several reasons: Tooth injury from external impact; trauma to the jaw or mouth; a rotting decay that infects the canal and pulp.

When do I need root canal treatment?

Left untreated, the infection of a diseased or injured nerve will spread throughout the tooth and it may become too late to preserve your natural tooth.

As the infection worsens, pus may develop at the root tip in the jawbone and forms a “pus-pocket” known as an abscess. An abscess can weaken the bone structure around the teeth, causing it to break down, thus loosening the tooth and eventually causing it to fall out. As the abscess develops, pain also increases.

What does root canal treatment involve?

Requiring up to three dental appointments, the root canal treatment involves the following steps:

  • An opening is created through the crown of the tooth into the pulp chamber
  • The dental pulp is removed
  • The root canal is cleaned, enlarged, and shaped
  • To prevent further infection, medications may be inserted into the pulp chamber and root canal
  • The tooth may be drained and left uncovered for a couple of days
  • Alternatively, a temporary filling may be used to cover the opening to protect the tooth
  • Patient is given pain-relief medication to control the infection
  • The pulp chamber and root canals are filled and sealed
  • The temporary filling is removed and the pulp chamber and root canal(s) are cleaned and filled
  • A porcelain crown is placed over the tooth to further protect the sealed root canal.

Are root canal treatments painful?

Since root canals are typically performed on patients who suffer from an inflamed nerve, the pain is usually a result of the inflammation and not the procedure.

The therapy is no more painful than any other dental procedures. In fact, root canal treatment helps to relieve the pain while preventing further damage to the tooth.

Many dental practices incorporate minimally invasive techniques as part of their root canal procedures, to minimize the pain factor.

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