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Getting to the ROOT of the problem!

Most people have heard of the dreaded dental procedure known as Root Canal Treatment and there does seem to be a stigma attached to it, despite it being a fairly straight forward procedure! In this article, we will look at some of the common myths surrounding the treatment and what the procedure ACTUALLY involves and what you should REALLY expect, should you ever require this treatment yourself.

What exactly is Root Canal Treatment and why does it have such a bad image?

Root Canal Treatment (Endodontics) is performed when there is an infection inside the tooth. At the centre of each tooth is the pulp, which is soft tissue that contains nerves and blood vessels. The pulp provides the tooth with a blood supply which keeps it alive and it is housed by the root canal(s). Teeth around the front of the mouth (incisors and canines) tend to only have one root canal whereas premolars and molars have multiple and are usually more complex to treat. The term Root Canal Treatment essentially means treating a tooth by removing the diseased pulp, cleaning and disinfecting the root canal(s) and placing a filling where the pulp once was. Once a root filling has been placed, the tooth is usually restored with a strong filling or a crown for maximum strength as the tooth will be vulnerable and become brittle over time if left.

There are many reasons a nerve could die in a tooth including;

  • Tooth decay spreading through the enamel, into the dentine layer and then into the pulp
  • Leaky fillings
  • Trauma

Why does it have such a bad reputation?

Many patients facing the possibility of having a root filling feel anxious at the thought of the procedure being painful. However, it is often the pain from the infection leading to the procedure being performed that people tend to remember and may be the reason that some people gasp in horror when asked about their previous root canal treatment! Think about it, if a lady is asked about the labour of her child, what is she most likely to reveal? “Oh the care I received and the pain relief that was available to me was very good” or “Oh my goodness, the pain, THE PAIN!”

Another factor may be that over time, dental technology and materials have vastly improved so although it may have been an uncomfortable procedure 20 years ago, that certainly isn’t the case now. However, stigmas don’t tend to disappear overnight!

These days, most patients report that it feels no different to having a regular filling. The fact that the filling is deeper inside the tooth makes no odds when you are under anaesthetic and modern technology ensures the treatment is as non-invasive as possible. The truth is, once you reach the stage of needing a root filling due to a diseased nerve, the treatment is usually a much-needed relief compared to the pain beforehand.

By attending regular examinations and following the advice of your Dentist, you will be minimising the risk of needing this particular treatment however if you are faced with a decision to consent to having Root Canal Treatment, please do not despair! It really is a very straightforward, pain-free procedure!

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