What is Root Canal Treatment and do I need it?



What is a root canal?

A root canal is actually the centre core of your tooth that in health contains a nerve and a blood vessel (a capillary) to supply nutrients and a capillary (vein) to take waste products away.



What is a root canal for?

It is a living part of the body, and warns the body if an injury is beginning to occur- it then becomes hyper –sensitive. Like anywhere else in the body it can become so irritated and injured it cannot heal and the capillaries and the nerve die off.


Like any other area in the body when a part dies off it goes ‘bad’ and the body experiences pain as a warning that there is material poisonous to the body that needs to be cleared out. Unlike any other area in the body the dead area is in a restricted space and defence blood cells can get in to break down and take away the dead cells in the core. These dead cells, rotten with bacteria, leak into the bone and eventually cause an abscess.


This requires removal of the source i.e. the tooth with a rotten core or treatment for root canal i.e. removal of the dead stuff in the core of the root canal.



What is root canal treatment? What is root canal therapy? Is there a difference?

No it‘s the same words for cleaning this poisonous stuff out. It’s also called endodontic root canal treatment. Root canal procedure requires opening up the tooth from the biting surface with a dental drill. Sometimes as the tooth has no live nerve and therefore because there pain this needs no anaesthetic injection.

Of all dental treatment root canal or root canal therapy must be exact. The dead material is drawn out with tiny reamers (like a tiny corkscrew) and the canal is then gently and thoroughly filed to make sure the sides of the canal are smooth and free of any dead material.


As you can imagine this is very skilful and times-taking procedure even in a ‘straight’ root canal it is very infected after it has died. This root canal infection can take up to three or four visits of perhaps half an hour in a non-specialist’s hands. In some teeth with two or three separate roots it is even more difficult and if not completed very meticulously the treatment will fail and the abscess return. Sometimes the most predictable treatment is to remove the tooth.


Endodontic root canal has an increased chance of success if performed by a root canal endondontist. They have specialist training and use high magnification or a microscope to perfect the cleaning and shaping of the root canals. Even when an endondontist root canal specialist does the work it may take an hour or more and possibly two visits to perfect. However, total dedication to getting as perfect result as possible is the only way to rid the body of the entire abscess forming bacteria flowing out of the dead canal.


The important question is what does a root canal treatment cost? Root canal treatment cost in time and skill are the biggest barrier to having a canal root treatment the path of choice. A general dentist may feel they have the skills and time to do the best for their patient with some chance of success. The charge NHS for a complete course of treatment is currently £47.00. This covers all filling and root canals needed in that course of treatment. A registered specialist charges in the region of £480 to £650 per tooth.


Untreated root canal pain can be quite distressing and can be sharp and intense as the infected canal kills the nerve. After a root canal dies the pain can subside until the abscess starts to form and puts intolerable pressure on the bone around the tip of the tooth. Patients often describe throbbing pain in the whole of one side of the face or localised to a swelling in one place that continues until the pressure of the forming puss finds a way out.


After root a canal is treated the pressure is released first and the canal cleaned. Sometimes an antibiotic is prescribed before or after a root canal episode. The release of the pressure of the puss at the tip of the tooth is usually enough to give relief from root canal pain.


The Patient may complain about root canal treatment taking a long time and indeed it does if done well. As a re-treatment is usually classed as a failure and extraction the only confident option (except for a last ditch specialist intervention) it is better to take the time and cost into consideration if a tooth is to be saved at the beginning if your tooth is of value to you .


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