Welcome to the world of endodontics, the broad term for all root canal therapy. Whereas it is easy enough to extract a tooth to cure acute pain this is obviously not always going to be the route that you as a patient will want to go down.
In the advanced stages of tooth decay your outer tooth’s enamel has already been eaten through, the only positive here is that enamel is nerveless; so this initial tooth attack is painless. The inner layer of dentine is then reached and you’re starting to feel pain once the caries ( tooth decay) reaches far into the dentine.
Finally be prepared for acute pain when the caries reaches your tooth’s extremely sensitive inner pulp. This pulpitis manifests at one stage with the swelling of your tooth’s pulp. Unfortunately confined as it is by the root canal and pulp chamber the pulp has nowhere to go. This pressure build up not only induces the considerable pain but also cuts off the pulp’s blood supply.
At this stage the pulp will die and you might have a false sense of relief as its nerves have died with it and pain stops. Temporarily. This pulp death leads on to an alveolar abscess forming. With a loose and tender tooth,sensitive to the slightest pressure and continuous pain it’s time to see the dentist for extraction or root canal therapy.
Extraction vs Root Canal
Your front teeth are the most visible and luckily have only one root, so having a root canal on them is a lot simpler than the inaccessible multi-rooted back teeth. This is one of the factors that could sway a patient toward having a root canal. Other factors that need to be taken into account are whether you will prefer not to have artificial replacements, if your mouth is otherwise well maintained and if you’re prepared for a lengthy treatment that still has the possibility of failure.
Your dentist’s thought processes
A tooth whose pulp is still alive can often be rectified by an ordinary filling. The dentist will perform some vitality tests to see if this easy course of action is possible. These include sensitivity tests where the too this exposed to,amongst other things, heat, cold or electricity.
If its found that your pulp is very much alive and unexposed a filling should do the job, otherwise be prepared for extraction or root canal treatment if all of the above criteria meet both the dentist’s and your expectations.
It is a long and painful process which can be finished in two visits if you’re fortunate. We’ve broken the root canal treatment down into simple terms to let you have an idea of what you can be prepared to expect.
Root Canal therapy: Visit 1
1. The pulp is removed
2. Root canal is enlarged and cleaned
3. Dressing is inserted to disinfect the root canal
Root Canal treatment: Visit 2
1. The dressing is removed
2. A permanent root filling is inserted
As you see it is not a dental procedure undertaken lightly, a lot of thought and consideration must go into it even before a treatment course is decided. Even if successful you can expect to have a tooth that is not as strong as before, but the end result will hopefully be more to your liking than extraction and obviously superior to constant pain due to an alveolar abscess.