About root canal treatment pain and steps
TRUE STORY: My dad is 51 this year and as the man of the house, I’ve honestly never seen him complain much about pain. But this time he claimed his toothache was nothing he ever experienced before. He could barely eat or sleep well. After a few days of being stuck in his ordeal, he finally decided that his toothache wasn’t going to magically heal itself and he went to a dentist. Turns out, his lower incisor was badly infected and the dentist suggested for him to get a root canal treatment.
Root Canal Treatment (also known as endodontic treatment)
A root canal treatment is the disinfection and filling of the root canal space in attempts to save the tooth that is badly infected and prevent further damage to the tooth. The main gist of the treatment involves the removal of infected tissues, nerves and blood vessels contained within the chamber of the inflamed dental pulp.
For better understanding of the dental terms used, you can refer to this diagram.
What causes Root Canal Treatment ?
The inflammation of the tooth’s pulp can be a result of some of these following causes:
- Deep Decay—Severe tooth decay that penetrates into the inner layers of the teeth allows for bacterial growth and infection causing inflammation of dental pulp.
- Tooth Cracks & Chips—Increases the difficulty of cleaning stuck food allowing for growth of bacteria and increases risk of tooth decay.
- Repeated Dental Procedure on Tooth—Certain dental procedures (E.g.: shaving of enamel, large fillings and other tooth restoration procedures) could indirectly weaken teeth or increase pressure placed on teeth. These can increase the chance of development of tooth cracks and chips which ultimately adds to the risk of having an inflamed dental pulp.
- Trauma to Tooth—High impact to your face region could lead to trauma to your teeth which increases the chance of development of tooth cracks and chips. In some cases, even when injury to tooth is not visible, pulp damage still remains a possibility.
What is the Symptoms of Root Canal Treatment ?
Not all toothaches may lead your dentist to suggest a root canal treatment. However, here is a list of symptoms which could suggest you may need a root canal treatment.
- Sharp pain when chewing or biting
- Increased tooth sensitivity such as lingering pain when eating hot/cold foods
- Darkening of tooth
- Swelling and pain in jaw or other areas like your face, neck or head
- Swollen or darkened gums
- “Pimples” on gums surrounding infected tooth
- Pus discharge from gums surrounding infected tooth
Are Root Canal Treatment Painful?
Like most people, my father was under the impression that root canal treatments are extremely painful and are modern day torture procedures. When he recounted his experience to me, he told me his first reaction when the dentist suggested a root canal treatment was “Jialat la…” (Singlish slang for “I’m in trouble”)
Lo and behold, root canal treatments are not more painful than getting a generic filling. This is because anaesthesia is used during the process to ensure a pain-free experience.
Steps in a Root Canal Treatment
The entire process is performed over 1-2 visits depending on each individual patient and their dentist’s recommendation.
- Assessment : The dentist will first take an x-ray of your teeth to assess the location of infected tooth and confirm the patient’s suitability for a root canal treatment.
- Preparation : Once confirmed, anaesthesia is administered to the surrounding area of the infected tooth. Next, a rubber sheet (also known as a rubber dam) is placed over the area to isolate the tooth while ensuring that the region is kept dry and free from saliva.
- Cleaning : The dentist will then drill an access hole into the tooth and carefully remove the related tissues and debris from the pulp chamber. Root canal files are special tools used to ensure the root canal is thoroughly clean. Water or other cleaning solutions (e.g: sodium hypochlorite) will be used periodically to help disinfect and clean the teeth.
- Fill & Seal : Finally, the root canals are filled with a rubber-like material (also known as gutta-percha) and sealed off using an adhesive cement. Some dentists will put medication and temporary filling inside the tooth to allow for complete drainage of the infected material and that recommend patients come back for a second visit to seal off the tooth.
As for my dad, due to the unfortunate activation of the circuit breaker, his second appointment had to be pushed back until further notice. But for now, he is consciously working from home and diligently adopting good habits (like rinsing with mouthwash) to maintain his oral hygiene.
If you liked this article, you can click here to read more about root canal treatments (root canal recovery process, root canal cost and more) or click here to read other oral-health related articles on our blog.
If you have any questions regarding root canal treatments or oral health matter, feel free to drop Dr Ryan a message here.
In vivid dental surgeons, we provide the not only treatment but education for patients.
Here at Vivid dental surgeons, we aim to educate our patients on matters regarding oral hygiene and health. Especially amidst this COVID-19 period, we encourage everyone to stay safe and maintain good oral hygiene. Let’s all do our part in keeping the community and ourselves healthy.
Dr Ryan and the Vivid Dental Team wishes everyone a pleasant and virus-free day ahead!