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What is "Root canal treatment"?


In olden days, any kind of tooth infection had only one remedial measure- extraction or pulling out of teeth. Times have changed now. Dentistry has evolved to such an extent that every dental treatment procedure is being made extremely painless so that dental services are delivered without interfering with the ease and comfort of the patient.

Root canal treatment is one such procedure wherein the infected tooth is saved by the removal of irritants and pus.

When is root canal treatment done?

Our tooth has an innermost chamber called pulp which houses the nerves and blood vessels and supplies nutrition to the tooth. There should not be any breach in continuity of the outer layers. When there is a deep cavity, the pulp is exposed creating a pathway for the outside bacteria to enter the pulp area and infect the tissue. Infection is characterized by pain and swelling in relation to adjacent gums or the face on that side. This is when root canal treatment is recommended so that the tooth is not pulled out and remains there. Only the infection is removed.

What are the steps in the procedure of root canal treatment? 

Firstly, root canal procedure is carried out by an endodontist or a general dental practitioner. At least two to three visits are required for the completion of the treatment. Nowadays root canal treatment is finished off in a single sitting. It depends on the severity of infection mainly. The general steps involved are-

1.      To understand the extent of infection, X-rays are taken. It gives an exact idea about the infection affecting the roots and the area around the roots. The dentist is able to appreciate the extent of damage to the tooth and bone loss associated.

2.      To control pain, if any, a shot of local anesthesia is given.

3.      The next step is the placement of rubber dam to protect the tooth from contamination of saliva.

4.      The decayed tooth portion is removed from the tooth and the pulp is exposed in such a way that cleaning instruments can be easily inserted into the root canals.

5.      Now, the infected pulp is removed and alternatively flushing out of debris is carried out.

6.      Once the dead or infected pulp tissue is removed, the root canals are shaped and widened to accommodate the filling material.

7.      At times, the root canals can be filled with medicated material to heal the infected tissue or the canals may be left open for the pus to drain completely. If there is external swelling, antibiotic coverage is also provided.

8.      When the infection subsides completely, the root canals are filled with an inert material that is harmless to the tooth and the surrounding tissues.

9.      Once the root canals are sealed, the teeth have to be restored by the placement of crowns. This is to reinforce the tooth as the tooth becomes dry and brittle once the pulp tissue is removed. The placement of a dental crown will make the tooth strong enough to be used normally for chewing food.

10.     For follow-up, you will be called by your dentist after about a week or so. For the first two or three days you can expect pain which can be controlled by painkillers. If you have any complaints of pain or pressure, you must report it to your dentist.

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