When the nerve of a tooth becomes infected, there are only two options available.
The first option being – to have the tooth extracted (removed) and the space replaced with a partial plate, bridge or possibly even an implant. The other is to have root canal therapy. This can happen either because of trauma (a knock to the tooth) or deep decay which has infected the nerve of the tooth.
When the nerve of the tooth becomes infected and/or dies, (or begins to die) it often causes an abscess at the base of the tooth—the apex of the root which will usually appear on the gum as a bump. The body can often deal with this but more often pain, swelling and inflammation occur. If left untreated this can become chronic, and quite dangerous. When faced with this, some patients opt for removal of the tooth, leaving a gap in the mouth which in itself can cause further future problems.
A root canal is a very common procedure. The aim being to save the tooth. This is done by removing the infected nerve and pulp from the center of the tooth, cleaning it out and then filling and sealing it off again.
Although patients report this sounds terrifying, is it no more traumatic than having a filling done. Patients usually agree with this once their treatment has been completed.
At the first appointment (if the infection is acute) the dentist may prescribe antibiotics to give some relief and allow the tooth to settle before the next treatment.
During the following appointment the temporary filling is removed to open the crown (top) of the tooth to expose the nerve or root canal.
Small instruments called reamers or files are used to clean the canal of nerve debris and an antibiotic paste is placed in the canal. Most patients report noticeable pain relief after this appointment. At subsequent appointments, the canals are cleaned, shaped, measured and finally filled with a rubber-like material, and finally a permanent filling is placed on the top of the tooth.
Depending on the severity of the infection, the number of canals or reaction to treatment, you could require 3 or even 4 visits to your dentist.
Sometimes he/she will place a temporary filling for a period of 3-6 months to ensure the tooth is settling. An X-ray is usually taken at this time as a record to see the area is clear of any infection and healing properly.
The dentist may suggest that you have a crown done at some stage, as once the tooth has had a root canal it will have lost structure and be much weaker. A crown will protect the tooth from breaking.
Kapiti Dental Centre – 04 298 6754
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