What is a Root canal? Procedures and risks

The root canal procedure

The purpose of undergoing a root canal treatment is to save a tooth that has been severely infected or there is an inflammation, which could lead to the loss of the tooth. Since the pulp inside the tooth can become infected with bacteria caused by an untreated cavity, or an injury. A dentist will perform this procedure to remove the bacteria and the dead or the dying tissue from inside the tooth. If the dentist does not intervene the tooth will have to be pulled.

You will need two visits to the dentist for a root canal. Firstly an X-ray will be taken to see the shape of the root canals and determine if there are any signs of infection in an adjacent bone. Your dentist will inject a local anesthesia to numb the tooth. Then with a small drill, the dentist will create an access into the tooth. Then, the nerve and the pulp will be removed from inside the tooth. The dentist will then wash the opening out. Then an antimicrobial solution will be injected into the opening, which will reduce the risk of further infection. After which the tooth will be dried before it is filled with a rubber-like material called gutta percha. A temporary filling is then applied until the crown is ready. As soon as the crown is ready, you will need to revisit the dentist where the crown will be place over the tooth. This will protect the tooth and prevent it from breaking, and restore it to full function.


The recovering time

Your tooth will be sensitive for the first few days after the treatment. This is the inflammation that is healing that was there prior to the treatment. But you will be given pain medication to control the pain. Still, you can return to your normal activities the day after the treatment. However, until the crown is fitted, you need to minimize chewing on the tooth under repair. This step will help avoid recontamination of the interior of the tooth and also may prevent a fragile tooth from breaking before the tooth can be fully restored.

Risk if no action is done

You might feel that the pain is not worth the trouble. But if you do nothing, then there can be a risk of swelling. This swelling can spread to other areas of the face, head and neck. You can also suffer some bone loss around the tip of the root.

The possible complications of a root canal procedure

Removing and cleaning out the root area of the tooth, which is a sensitive area, can lead to pain. But the pain will be temporary, unless you experience afterwards, which can indicate another bacterial infection. If the treated areas needs to be redone, it can be more complicated, as the filling, crown or implants will need to be replaced.

A missed crack in the root of your tooth is one of the root canal complications that can lead to bacterial growth and the possibility of further treatment. If the small crack in the root of your tooth is not noticed, it leaves the area exposed to the reintroduction of bacteria in the area.

Over time, the inner seal placed during a root canal can erode, which permits bacteria to transfer back into the root of your tooth. This is a complication your dentist is likely to warn you about so you can take proper care of the area to prevent this or slow the process.

Then there is a risk that all the pain, effort and costs, could be for nothing. As we have seen if the dentist fails to do the procedure correctly or the infection is not controlled, you can lose the tooth and it will be pulled. Therefore, it is vital to make use of a dentist with experience performing the procedure, but also to inform the dentist as soon as possible if something does not feel right. The window to make corrections are limited. You will also hear many alternative medical professionals warn against heart problems and the risks of infection. There are widespread claims that a root canal can actually lead to heart attack. These claims are largely due to studies that have demonstrated the profound impact and role that toxins from those pathogens play in the evolution of atherosclerosis which is a cause of heart attacks. 

The only alternative to a root canal procedure is having the tooth extracted and replaced with a bridge, implant, or removable partial denture to restore chewing function and prevent adjacent teeth from shifting. These alternatives not only are more expensive than a root canal procedure but require more treatment time and additional procedures to adjacent teeth and supporting tissues.

To reduce the need for a root canal, is to following good oral hygiene practices of brushing twice a day, flossing at least once a day, and scheduling dental visits every 6 months.