Have you been advised to undergo a root canal treatment by your dentist? No need to worry. It’s not a big deal. Really!
Let’s start with understanding ‘why’ a root canal treatment is needed. Each our teeth has 3 important layers (refer the image below):
• Enamel (outermost layer)
• Dentin (next inner layer)
• Pulp (innermost part)
A small decay in enamel or dentin may or may not cause sensitivity or pain. However, the pulp is the most sensitive part of the tooth as it is connected to nerves and blood vessels (veins and arteries). As and when the pulp is exposed to the outer atmosphere either due to decay or an injury, you are likely to experience tremendous pain. This is exactly when a Root Canal Treatment comes to the rescue of your tooth. Through RCT, the pain can be completely eliminated without extracting the tooth.
Note: Tooth extraction is another option which might cost you lesser in terms of money as well as time. But you should not be tempted to take that route. Tooth extraction is not recommended as it can damage the alignment of the whole arch (jaw) with varying magnitude, depending upon the position of the tooth being extracted, and in the long run, it can potentially affect your ability to eat.
Process of RCT
The process of root canal treatment is explained below:
In the ‘Cleaning’ phase, the infected pulp is removed using manual or mechanized files. The inner walls of dentin are cleaned and filled with antiseptics to prevent relapse of infections. This process may be completed by your dentist in a single marathon appointment or over multiple appointments, depending on the condition of your tooth, your pain tolerance and your availability etc.
However, cleaning the infected pulp and removing caries etc. may require some time. So it’s important for the patient to have patience and not panic.
At times patients are relieved from the pain at this stage and are inclined to discontinue the treatment, possibly to save some money and time or due to ignorance. But an incomplete treatment would not lead to sustainable health for the tooth, making it susceptible to relapse of infection or even breakage due to lack of strength.
In this activity, the root canal is prepared for root canal filling by using files.
In this stage, the root canal is filled with artificial materials such as guttapurcha etc.Then, the hollowness of the tooth which reduces its compressive strength and makes it mechanically weak is restored by filling.
Note: At this stage, the pain subsides completely and the patient is able to chew properly. But the tooth may not withstand stronger chewing forces and can possibly break. Numerous patients are not aware of this and discontinue the treatment, to save time or money required for the crown.
- Restoration of the tooth
Tooth restoration is achieved using an artificial crown, which is designed using casts. The crowns are typically manufactured by specialized labs and can be made in various materials such as ceramics etc. based on your preference and budget. Once the crown is ready, it is pasted on the tooth using permanent adhesives. Crown is important not only from the aesthetics point of view but also necessary for the protection of the tooth from chewing forces.
Post Treatment Care
RCT is generally categorized as minor surgical procedure. You may also be prescribed painkillers, antibiotics apart from the use of local anesthesia (during the procedure in the clinic), depending on the condition of your tooth, your pain threshold, and your immunity. In such cases where anesthesia is used, the jaw is likely to be numb for 3-4 hours, after which the effect of anesthesia is expected to subside gradually.Your dentist should guide you accordingly.
Overall, RCT can be a very smooth and peaceful process if you cooperate completely with your dentist, follow the guidelines and prescribed medications and manage your appointments with discipline.
Key Points to remember:
- Maintain a positive attitude towards preserving your damaged tooth
- Sincerely follow the instructions of your dentist
- Strictly follow the appointment schedule
- Be ready to pay for the RCT, as the opportunity cost of losing your teeth would be way higher in the long run
- Your teeth would be your best friends in your old age. Lack of teeth will make the old age difficult, extremely difficult!
RCT is required to enhance the life of a damaged tooth. For a successful RCT the patient needs to demonstrate positive attitude, patience with the process, be disciplined and show trust in the dentist.