What is Root Canal Therapy (RCT)?
The Procedure and Aftercare.
Root canal therapy is probably the most common and oldest treatment in the world of dentistry. It fits under the special dentistry known as Endodontics. Endodontics itself means dentistry within the tooth. Root Canal Treatment is often considered as painful and scary to some of the patients, but it is not that scary neither is painful. Generally, RCT is performed with local anesthesia, which is why patient cannot feel any pain during the treatment. Almost all general dentists are trained to perform endodontic therapies. However, in some cases the patients are referred to endodontist (who specializes in performing endodontic treatments). Let’s have some in-depth insight on Root canal therapy, its procedure, and aftercare. Each case can be different, but these are some common procedures to help you understand the process of RCT.
What is Root Canal Therapy?
Root canal therapy is a procedure in which the infected pulp of the tooth has been removed, to stop the infection and to keep the tooth functional. If a cavity is not detected or treated in timely manner then it can proceed to the innermost layer of the tooth, where it reaches the pulp and infects the area (this is called the third/ last stage of tooth decay). Besides cavities, the pulp of the tooth can be damaged due to other reasons as well; such as fracture that exposes the pulp, injury to the tooth, cracked, loose, or repeated fillings to the same tooth can cause infection and irritation in the pulp layer. In any case, if the pulp has been exposed to any kind of bacteria, it can get infected, it can become non vital and this process can destroy the bone around it. Root canal is performed, to save the tooth from more damage and to get the patient out of discomfort and pain immediately. This therapy is done with the help of sedation/anesthesia since the pulp is filled with nerves, tissues, and blood vessels that have to be cleaned and sealed properly.
When is an RCT Needed?
Once the pulp of the tooth is inflamed or infected, it has to be removed by RCT to save the tooth and keep it functional. Dentist recommends RCT when they see that there are still chances to save the natural tooth and extraction of the tooth can be avoided. With the help of an X-ray, it can be determined how much the tooth is damaged internally. If only the inner pulp is at risk, RCT and restorative treatment can help to retain the tooth structure. The sooner the treatment is done, the better it is as it instantly gives relief from unbearable pain (in most cases), reduces the risk of losing the teeth, and prevents infection from spreading more.
How does a patient know he needs an RCT?
It is difficult for the patient to identify if he needs an RCT or not unless he visits the Dentist’s office. A dentist will perform a dental examination and performs some tests, along with reading the X-ray to determine the symptoms. Generally, patients who end up having RCT experience the following common symptoms.
- Severe local pain
- Swelling from the infection
- Sensitivity to cold or hot beverages.
The symptoms that can occur by irritated nerve due to a cavity that has grown, any trauma or accident, slipping or falling and now the tooth may need RCT. Again, only a dentist or dental hygienist can detect and determine what procedure needs to be done on an emergency basis.
Earlier when a tooth was infected or diseased has to be removed, but since endodontics therapies have been started, 95% of chances are there that the tooth can be saved through such therapies.
Is RCT considered as an emergency treatment?
Yes! In most cases RCT is an emergency treatment. It can be determined after taking an x-ray that how much the tooth is infected. Emergency Root canals are scheduled if the patient is suffering from severe pain
What is the procedure of RCT?
After running some tests, the x-ray and dental examination is performed and once it is decided that the tooth needs RCT, the dentist will schedule the procedure in one or two sittings. Generally, the dentist first tries to settle the swelling down through medicines and then suggests the date to start the RCT.
On the day of the therapy, local anesthesia is administered to perform the procedure. The dentist then makes an opening in the tooth to perform the therapy. The measurement has to be done through the Apex locator. Then comes the main step of the therapy.
Cleaning and shaping of the Root canals
The goal of the RCT is to improve the health of the damaged tooth by removing the infected pulp from the opening made in the crown. This step includes the physical shaping of each canal with specialized instruments and chemical disinfection of canals. By doing a gentle up and down movement, the dentist will clean the canals and prepare them for filling and sealing.
Filling and sealing the canals
After thoroughly cleaning the canals, a permanent filling material is placed to prevent the re-entry of the bacteria to roots. A sealer cement is used to seal the filling material.
Why does it need a dental crown?
After the therapy is done, a restoration (filling) is performed on the tooth. It is recommended to have RCT treated tooth to be crowned. A dental crown provides strength to the tooth and helps maintain the structural integrity of the RCT treated and restored tooth.
Is the procedure of RCT painful?
Usually with the right amount of local anesthetic is administered to perform the root canal therapy procedure, there should be no pain during the treatment. The patient may feel mild discomfort while having the procedure, due to keeping the mouth open for some time. Some time over the counter analgesic is recommended with some other post operatory instructions.
What is the aftercare of RCT?
After the therapy is done, the patient may feel soreness and slight discomfort for some time. The dentist may prescribe a mild analgesic/ painkiller to help with the discomfort. Sometimes patient is instructed to try and avoid chewing hard food with the tooth which has the root canal therapy for a couple of days. In most cases, it is recommended to have dental crown done on the treated tooth after root canal therapy.
Here at clean smiles dental hygiene clinic, we do our best to save your natural teeth and avoid extraction. Immediate root canal treatment is done to take the patient out of the pain, and maintain the integrity of the tooth structure. If you are experiencing any symptoms that were discussed as indication of RCT, do not hesitate to get in touch, visit our office in Edmonton or call us at (780) 800-6655. We accept and treat patients with dental emergencies, Dr. Haider is accepting new patients as well.