Nothing strikes fear into the heart of dental patients quite like the words ‘root canal treatment’. When the blood or nerve supply of a tooth (often known as the ‘pulp’) becomes damaged through injury, infection, or decay, it can cause the nerve of the tooth to die. Years ago this would have meant that the tooth would have to be removed entirely before the whole area became infected. However, thanks to root canal treatment, it is now possible to save teeth that are at risk from the damaged pulp.
Infections spread quickly. This is particularly true in our mouths which, by being moist and warm, are a perfect breeding ground for the spread of bacteria. An infection that starts in the pulp can quickly spread through the entire root canal system and if left untreated, could grow to form an abscess. If this happens, bacteria-filled pus will collect under the gums, causing them to swell and become hot and potentially extremely painful. At this point, your dentist will need to prescribe you a course of oral antibiotics and it may be necessary to remove the tooth altogether.
The main goal of root canal treatment is to remove all of the infection from the root canal in order to save the original tooth.
When you consider that fear of the dentist is an almost universal phenomenon, it isn't surprising that tales of dental treatment are often embellished beyond recognition. In fact, a root canal shouldn't be any more painful than an ordinary filling.
Root canal treatment is quite a complex process and will normally require two to three visits to your dentist.