Have you ever wondered why your dentist has recommended a RCT (root canal treatment) for your decayed tooth? Perhaps the decay in the tooth penetrated till the pulp where all the nerves of the tooth reside and gave you that shooting pain. The tiny microscopic bacteria penetrate through your tooth (the enamel) creating a “pit” which serves as a gateway of infection. As the bacteria eat away your tooth, the pit becomes deep enough and involves the nerve of the tooth, that’s when the condition becomes painful and root canal treatment is necessary.
Sometimes this decay happens silently without causing any pain or sensitivity. It progresses quietly and involves the tooth pulp causing immense damage to the tooth. It takes several months or years for bacteria to reach up to the tooth pulp; that’s why a six monthly regular visit to your dentist is strongly recommended. Only a dentist can tell you if a root canal treatment is necessary. Remember, pain isn’t always a sign that mandates a root canal. Other dental conditions like tooth fracture, an unsuccessful dental filling, sinus infection, tooth clenching and grinding (bruxism), periodontal (gum) disease, exposed dentin, can also cause tooth pain. After proper examination, your dentist will be able to tell you the best course of action to resolve your symptoms or ask you to visit an endodontist. Endodontists are dental specialists who have an additional three years of experience in root canal treatments and work precisely as they limit their practice solely to endodontic treatment. This equates to positive experiences and faster healing.
Only getting a root canal treatment is not sufficient. The tooth must be properly sealed off against microbial attacks for which it needs to be crowned. Porcelain fused to metal crowns or zirconia crowns are commonly used to restore the tooth making it strong and functional. If a crown is not placed for some reason, the success of root canal is dubious and unpredictable.
If we look at the tooth anatomy, the pulp is the innermost part of the tooth protected by dentin, enamel and cementum. If the infection has reached up to the pulp, we cannot reverse it. Tooth pulp is a bundle of nerves, blood vessels and fibres. In root canal treatment, the dental surgeon removes pulp, cleans the cavity, properly disinfects it with suitable medicaments and then fills it to prevent further bacterial invasion.
Depending on the condition of tooth, the root canal treatment might take a single or multiple visits to the dentist. Slight discomfort or pain is expected at the onset of the treatment but it gradually disappears giving you relief from the nagging pain. Root canal treatment, along with appropriate restoration, is a cost-effective way to treat teeth with damaged pulp and is usually less expensive than extraction and placement of a bridge or an implant. Moreover, placement of a bridge or an implant will require significantly more time in treatment and is a tedious procedure. Always remember that root canal treatment is the only procedure that can save your diseased tooth and enables to save your natural tooth for long time restoring function and aesthetics.
Saving your natural teeth is the very best option. Nothing can completely replace your natural tooth. An artificial tooth can sometimes cause you to avoid certain foods. Keeping your own teeth is important so that you can continue to enjoy the wide variety of foods necessary to maintain the proper nutrient balance in your diet. If your dentist recommends extraction (pulling the tooth), always ask about possibility of root canal treatment.
Failure to treat an infected tooth can lead to spread of the infection either forming pus or life threatening infection. Call your dentist right away if you notice tooth pain, swelling or tenderness to get on the right track towards treatment.
By Dr. Jyoti Raheja
Specialist at Dantah