Inside every tooth is a nerve and if decay reaches the nerve, or if a tooth fractures then bacteria can induce infection. This may cause pain and lead to abscess formation in the bone around the roots. Root canal treatment eliminates the bacteria from the root canal and removes the cause of the infection.
The treatment is done by accessing the nerve and removing it. The root canals are located and measured and then cleaned and shaped with fine instruments. The canals are finally filled with special materials. Root canal work is a skilled and time consuming procedure and most courses of treatment will involve one or two appointments of one to two hours duration.
You will always be given a local anaesthetic injection when you have any form of invasive dentistry such as a root canal treatment, and what is worth bearing in mind is that many people are in quite severe pain before having root canal treatment due to the infection or abcess which is present. Having this treatment then removes the initial cause of pain and so pain relief is the result.
In some instances it may also be possible to offer dental sedation during a root canal treatment. There are various ways that sedation can be offered, either by breathing in a relaxing gas or by having an injection which will keep you awake but ensure that you have no conscious awareness of what is going on.
When you come for an initial assessment for any root canal treatment and think that you may like dental sedation then please do let your dentist know as appropriate arrangements can then be made.
The following diagrammatic video show how a root canal is performed.
Normally, as we have mentioned before, pain is actually less after root canal treatment as it deals with the infection and abscess. Sometimes a tooth can feel painful after root canal treatment if you bite excessively hard on it, we therefore recommend being careful about what you eat for a few days after having this form of dentistry.
There is often a falsely held belief that root canal treatments are very painful.People have a tendency to believe this because they are actually reporting on the pain that they feel prior to having treatment caused by infection and the abscess. With modern injection techniques and anaesthetic the RCT is generally speaking no more painful than a routine filling which is normally described as uncomfortable rather than painful.
The real trick to reducing pain with root canal treatments is to not let the condition get so bad in the first place. There are a few instances where pain can be worse after root canal treatment:
If the gum and connective tissues around your teeth become badly inflamed then it is this that can cause post root canal treatment sensitivity and/or pain. This is why we recommend seeing the dentist as soon as possible to ensure that the infection does not build up and cause this type of pain.
If you grind your teeth then this will transfer the pressure onto any inflamed gum and connective tissues around your teeth, so being aware of grinding and clenching will also help to eliminate sensitivity and/or pain after root canal treatment.
As already mentioned root canal treatment often consists of a couple of treatments and it is often between these treatments that problems can arise. Rest assured that we refer our complex root canal treatments to a local London specialist as they have the equipment and experience to deal with any complex cases.
Generally though post operative pain can be managed with regular painkillers which are available over the counter. In some instances your dentist may prescribe anti-inflammatory or stronger painkillers to deal with any more severe pain.
Another good suggestion is to eat soft food for a few days after your root canal treatment.This gives time for the surrounding soft tissue and ligaments to recover after the treatment as it is these which actually cause the pain, and not the tooth. Eating a soft diet transfers less force to these affected areas and therefore keeps pain to a minimum.
In the interim appointments it is also generally recommended to avoid extremely hot or cold foods, this is because the root canals may not be fully filled at the first appointment. Avoiding this type of food will also help to reduce post-operative sensitivity.