Root Canal Treatment

Root Canals

If you need a root canal, you are not alone.  Every year millions of teeth are successfully saved by this treatment.  Root canal therapy is a proven safe and effective way to save a dying or infected tooth.  At Braeside Dental Centre we can provide comfortable root canal treatment in a safe and caring setting.

What is a Root Canal?

A root canal is the removal of the nerve tissue inside a tooth.  It is a safe and effective way of keeping your tooth if the nerve is hurting or if the nerve has died and caused an infection in the bone around a tooth.

Why Would I Need a Root Canal?

The nerve that is inside your tooth can become irritated, infected or die for a variety of reasons.  One reason is due to the tooth getting a large cavity.  The bacteria that have caused the cavity can get into the nerve and cause it to die. Another reason could be a physical blow from an accident that can cause the nerve inside the tooth to die. Sometimes it is not one big blow to the tooth but rather many small traumas over time that become too hard for the tooth to recover from.  For example, multiple fillings done on the same tooth over time.  Each time a tooth needs a filling due to further decay or the filling failing there is trauma to the tooth.  The trauma is cumulative, and over time, the nerve can die and require treatment.  The trauma can damage the blood supply to the tooth and then cause the nerve to die due to a lack of nutrients.  This can take months or even years to happen.  If a tooth has had trauma it should be monitored regularly for symptoms.

What Are the Symptoms of Needing a Root Canal?

  • Pain from hot and cold that lingers afterwards
  • Pain with eating
  • Signs and symptoms of infection such as redness, feeling hot in the area and swelling
  • A small pimple-like bump on the gums near a tooth that is hurting
  • Pain from a tooth without any stimulus to make it hurt, or a toothache that wakes you up from sleep
  • Dark area seen on an x-ray

Is Getting a Root Canal Painful?

Root canals have gotten a bad rap over the years as being a painful procedure.  The truth is that due to advances in today’s anesthetics and procedures most root canals are comfortable, like having a filling done.  The tooth is numbed and the procedure is performed without pain.  Sometimes if the tooth is infected it can be difficult to numb the tooth and you may be prescribed antibiotics reduce the infection before the root canal is done like a bruise after having a sliver removed.  It is normal for there to be some discomfort after a root canal due to inflammation from having the procedure done.  This can be managed with an NSAID or acetaminophen like you would use for a headache.  A soft diet for a few days can also be helpful while the area heals.

How Long Does a Root Canal Take?

A root canal treatment usually takes 2 appointments of approximately 90 minutes each.  During the first appointment, the infected nerve tissue will be removed and a temporary dressing in placed to allow the pain and infection to resolve.  At the second appointment, inside the tooth is cleaned and shaped so that the filling material (gutta percha) can be placed into the nerve space to completely seal it.

Can You Die From a Root Canal?

Root canal therapy is a very safe procedure. However, people have died from complications of leaving an infected tooth untreated.  If a tooth that needs a root canal is not treated you could get a life-threatening infection.  The very real concern is that the infection will spread via the blood vessels into the brain and cause a brain abscess or the infection can spread into the throat cavity causing the throat to swell and block the airway. Antibiotics only provide temporary relief because the source of the infection is buried deep inside the tooth.  A root canal is the only way to remove this sick tissue without removing the whole tooth.

Do You Need to Be Asleep for a Root Canal?

Most people who are comfortable having dental work done are comfortable having a root canal with local anesthetic or regular numbing like you would have for a filling.

Can You Get Cancer from a Root Canal?

There is absolutely no evidence that root canals cause cancer.  In fact, studies show that people with untreated teeth that need root canals are more likely to get certain types of cancer.

Is the Tooth Dead After a Root Canal?

Once the nerve is removed, you will no longer feel hot and cold sensitivity on that tooth.  However, the tooth is still supported by a ligament to the jaw bone.  This is the anchorage for the tooth.  This supporting structure remains intact after having root canal therapy.  This means you will still be able to have the feeling and feedback of how hard or soft you bite that this ligament provides.

Do I Need a Crown After a Root Canal?

Most of the time the answer is yes.  Part of root canal therapy involves coring out the infected tissue inside the tooth so the tooth is more prone to fracture.  A crown acts like the rings on a barrel to help hold it together and to help protect the tooth from breaking down into the roots.  A crown is a way of protecting your investment.  The only option for a tooth that cracks down into the roots is extraction.  There are certain circumstances where a crown is not needed, such as small front teeth that have had a root canal as a result of trauma and the tooth does not have any fillings.  We will let you know which teeth we recommend crowns for if you need a root canal, that way you can feel confident that your tooth is protected while you enjoy all your favourite foods.