Sometimes tooth pain occurs when the nerve inside the tooth has become infected or inflamed as a result of decay, fracture or other trauma to the tooth. This can cause the nerve (dental pulp) inside the tooth to die. People experiencing this may come in to see us because there is sensitivity in their teeth to hot and/or cold and/or tenderness to biting. Sometimes there is a swelling or lump in their gums and/or a severe throbbing pain that may radiate through their jaw, possibly even causing a headache and disturbed sleep.
Depending on their signs and symptoms and following a series of tests, it may be determined that the nerve inside a tooth is dead or dying. Unfortunately, the internal disease will not heal by itself, even with oral antibiotics. There are two options available:
- Removal of the tooth (extraction)
- Root canal therapy (endodontic treatment)
What Is Root Canal Therapy?
Root canal therapy involves taking the diseased nerve out of the tooth.
- At the first appointment, Dr Teo will remove as much infection and debris from inside the tooth as possible. Then she’ll place an antibiotic and sedative (pain-relieving) medication inside it.
- In the following visit(s), the inside of the tooth is cleaned and shaped to ensure that the tooth is infection-free.
- The final stage involves filling the empty canal space(s) inside the tooth (where the nerve used to be) with a root filling material.
What Happens After Root Canal Therapy is Completed?
Once the tooth has settled, Dr Teo may recommend the placement of a crown to protect the top part of the tooth. A root-filled tooth is often weakened due to previously deep, extensive decay and may have cracks in it. The tooth is also more brittle than before. A crown may therefore reduce the risk of tooth breakage and splitting.
It’s important to be aware that root canal therapy is a complex treatment. While we have an excellent success rate, there is still a risk of the infection recurring, depending on the body’s response to treatment.
Why Does Root Canal Therapy Get Such Bad Press?
There is a general belief (fuelled by popular media) that root canal therapy is painful.
In fact, we find that in most cases, our patients have come in to see us because they have been experiencing toothache. Many experience a welcome and rapid relief of pain from the local anaesthetic that is given at the beginning of the root canal appointment. They may find that their pain is significantly reduced even when the effects of the anaesthetic wear off. This relief occurs because:
- the bacterial infection is physically removed
- the tissues around the tooth are sedated by the medicaments placed inside the root canal system
- the medicaments disinfect the root canal system and kill microorganisms that cause abscesses
If you have any questions, Dr Teo would be happy to answer them and to provide reassurance about the likely comfort and success of your root canal therapy.