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Whangarei Root Canal Treatment



What is a Root Canal?

In short, a root canal is a process of removing the internal soft tissues, which are dead or dying, from a tooth and replacing them with an inert rubber-like material called gutta percha. The discipline of dentistry that deals with root canals is called endodontics. A dentist who specialises in root canals is called an Endodontist.

The internal part of the tooth, called the pulp, contains blood vessels, nerves and connective tissue which form the tooth during development and maintain the health of the tooth during adulthood. A root canal is needed if retaining the tooth is desired when the pulp of the tooth becomes inflamed or dies due to invasion of bacteria from decay, fracture, trauma from an accident or continuous stress.

The process of doing a root canal involves several steps. The procedure may involve more than one appointment depending on the condition and symptoms. The first step is to access the pulp of the tooth from the biting surface with a small hole. Then, the pulp of the tooth is removed with tiny files while shaping and enlarging the inherently rough surface inside the roots all the way to the very tip. Sterilising solutions are used to destroy any bacteria inside the root of the tooth. Sometimes a healing paste is inserted into the roots and left for a few weeks before going on to the next step in the procedure. Finally, gutta percha is placed in the roots with a sealing agent to occupy the space within the roots where the pulp used to be.

A tooth with a finished root canal requires an additional procedure to protect the biting surface of the tooth, such as a crown or a filling. Teeth with root canals become more brittle over time and require a protective restoration to keep them from fracturing.

How can a root canal save my tooth?

An aching tooth that has been damaged from decay or trauma can be saved by doing a root canal. When the tissues inside a tooth become inflamed or die, pain and/or infection results. The only way to save the tooth is by removing the infected or dead tissues and replacing the space inside the tooth where the tissues once lived, with a rubberlike compound called gutta-percha.

The only alternative with an infected tooth is extraction. If the infected tooth is part of a bridge or has a crown on it, a root canal can be performed through the dental work to save the tooth and avoid costly replacement procedures.

How long do root canals last?

A properly restored tooth with a properly performed root canal can last a lifetime. As long as the tooth is well maintained with brushing, flossing and regular checkups, it can last as long as teeth without root canals. A tooth with a root canal is still susceptible to decay and fractures and therefore must be cared for accordingly.

There are several factors that influence the likelihood of retaining a tooth with a root canal, including the manner in which the root canal was performed, the complexity of the roots of the tooth, the stress applied to the tooth during chewing, fractures and the amount of tooth present.

What are the risks of a root canal?

The greatest risk of getting a root canal is that the tooth will be lost due to failure or complications during the root canal procedure. With today’s modern root canal techniques, root canals are 85-95% successful in safely saving teeth from extraction. That success rate is influenced by the skill of the dentist performing the procedure as well as the stress on the tooth and proper maintenance.

A tooth with a root canal can darken over time. The darkening tooth is not a sign of failure. It is a side effect that happens to 50% of teeth with root canals. If the tooth with the root canal is a back tooth, you may notice the root of the tooth being dark at the gum line under the crown, since most back teeth are protected with crowns after root canal treatment. If the tooth with a root canal is a front tooth, it can be lightened with bleaching agents placed inside the tooth or covered with a crown or veneer to hide the darkness.

Dentists performing root canals can encounter many obstacles when doing the procedure. If the canals of the tooth are very small, extremely curved or have an unusual shape, the dentist may have difficulty reaching the tip of the root to properly fill the canal. The files used to shape the canals are very fine and can break, leaving the remaining part stuck in the root of the tooth and thus reducing the chance of successful treatment. The dentist may also miss a canal on a tooth leaving bacteria which will re-infect the surrounding bone and tissues.

Your body is not at risk at having a root canal, despite claims you may have read about on the internet. The articles on the internet that state root canals cause illness is based on the research done in the 1920’s by Weston Price. The claims by Dr. Price were proven completely wrong in the 1950’s and the scientific stance today is that root canals do not cause illness. However, if you have the belief that root canals are dangerous, then perhaps extraction is the best option for you.

What causes a root canal to fail?

Root canal treatment can fail for many reasons, including poor technique, complex root anatomy, broken instruments while performing the procedure, over-stressing the tooth from clenching and, finally, fracture.

The greatest failure of teeth with root canals is fracture. Once a tooth has cracked down to the root of the tooth, nothing can save it. Teeth with root canals are more prone to fracturing than teeth without root canals as they tend to become more brittle over time. This is why teeth with root canals need to be restored with a protective crown (cap) or onlay.

Are Root Canals painful?

Root canals are no more painful than having a simple filling. Actually, root canals get you out of pain from a bad tooth ache, usually immediately! Because of the many steps required to perform a root canal, the most uncomfortable part is keeping your mouth open to have the procedure done.

Is there pain after a root canal?

In most cases, discomfort after a root canal is minimal and usually lasts for a day or two after the procedure. However, if the tooth is badly infected, it may take time for the infection to clear which will make the tooth uncomfortable to bite on. Most people are surprised at how painless root canals are in spite of what they have heard from friends or the internet.

Are root canals expensive?

The cost of a root canal is more than the cost of a filling but less than the cost of replacing the tooth if it were to be extracted. The cost of a root canal depends on where the tooth is in the mouth and how many roots it has. At Kowhai Dental, the fee for root canals ranges from $450 to $850. The cost of a root canal does not include the cost of the protective restoration required after the root canal completion.