Root canal treatment

If you have been experiencing severe tooth pain, it is possible that you may require root canal treatment. If your tooth has become damaged or cracked, you have tooth decay, large fillings or have recently had a trauma to the tooth, the chance of a root canal procedure increases, as these scenarios all leave your tooth open to infection.

When is a root canal required?

Root canal treatment (or endodontics) is required when there is an infection deep within your tooth. The blood or nerve supply may be infected either due to an injury or a severe cavity. You may not experience any pain or discomfort during the early stages of an infection, however if your tooth changes colour and darkens that is a sign that your tooth nerve is in danger of dying. If left untreated, this kind of infection can not only be very painful, but can lead to a tooth abscess or even tooth loss.

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Five signs of infection:

1. Serious toothache when eating, or when you put pressure on the tooth. Does it hurt when you bite down hard?
2. Excessively sensitive teeth. Does the sensitive pain linger after the initial contact with hot or cold foods or drinks?
3. Darkening of your tooth. Has your tooth changed colour? This may be a sign of the nerve dying.  
4. A small bump on the gum, close to the painful tooth.
5. Tender or swollen gums around the tooth.

Why is it called a root canal?  

The visible part of your tooth, above the gum line is called the ‘crown’. Below the gum, fixing the tooth to the jaw, is the ‘root’ of your tooth. The root canal system is a network that fills a central hollow area inside the tooth and down to the roots. Root canals are filled with loose connective tissue called ‘dental pulp’ and they are responsible for nourishing and hydrating the tooth, as well as reacting to hot and and cold.

When an infection takes hold, it is this pulp which becomes inflamed, which is why it may be painful to eat or drink. Eventually a bacterial infection will cause the pulp to die. It is important to see your dentist if you are experiencing toothache, as the infection will not go away of its own accord and antibiotics cannot be used to treat a root canal infection.

If left untreated, a deep infection can spread through the whole root canal system of your tooth. In this case, the pain may subside, as the infection will have removed all of the pulp.  

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Root canal (endodontics)

Is a root canal treatment painful?

Many endodontic procedures are performed to relieve the pain of toothache caused by pulp inflammation or infection. At Portman, we use modern techniques and anaesthetics, and most people report that they’re comfortable during the procedure.

For the first few days after treatment, your tooth may feel sensitive, especially if you had pain or infection before the procedure. This can be relieved with over-the-counter or prescription medications. Your endodontist will give you detailed instructions about how to relieve any pain.

Your tooth may continue to feel slightly different from your other teeth for some time after your endodontic treatment is completed. However, if you have severe pain, pressure, or pain that lasts more than a few days, call your endodontist.

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