New Process Could Help Improve Efficacy of Root Canal Therapy

By Emma Kalman
Photo by: SC Photography I started writing at age 14 and as I grew so did my passion for the art. After completing a variety of writing courses, nutritional courses and more, my career started off with poetry and children's short stories. Currently, I write medical blogs and recipe books as well.

Root canal therapy is a treatment that has been proven to be highly effective in saving badly infected teeth from extraction. Approximately 15 million root canal treatments are carried out each year in the United States alone.

Currently, this procedure involves removing infected pulp tissue from deep inside the tooth which includes removing the blood supply and nerves of the tooth. This results in the tooth becoming “non-vital”.

It can still function perfectly well, but the loss of pulp tissue can result in root treated teeth becoming increasingly brittle and more likely to fracture over time. Eventually, these more fragile teeth may be lost and patients will need to think about ways to replace them, often with dental implants.

Now a new process has been developed in Portland, Oregon and if introduced it could revolutionize this treatment. Researchers have developed a process where new replacement blood vessels in teeth can be engineered.

To do this, researchers used a procedure based on 3-D printing to create artificial capillaries in the lab. Using specialized techniques to recreate artificial blood vessels and to encourage dent in producing cells, researchers were able to regenerate a fully functional tooth. If this technique were introduced into mainstream dentistry then it could mean that retreated teeth will last for many years after treatment. It could eventually change the way root canal treatments are performed in the future.

In the meantime, anyone who suspects they may have a tooth infection should act quickly. This is because prompt treatment increases the chances of a dentist being able to save the tooth.

What to Do If You Think You Have a Tooth Infection

The first thing to do is to check any pain isn’t being caused by a tooth becoming slightly dislodged. This could be due to impacted food that can become trapped in between teeth. This can often be the case if you have a poor contact area in between two teeth. This can also be the case if you have a dental filling that is chipped or broken, allowing food to become trapped.

Gently floss around the affected tooth or use a soft interdental pick or interdental brush to check there isn’t any food debris.

Afterward, rinse your mouth with warm water and assess the situation. It is possible that any impacted food will have caused some residual soreness but if the pain continues you must get in touch with your dentist.

Other possible signs include bad breath, having a nasty taste you can’t get rid of and noticing the gum around the affected tooth has changed. It’s quite likely to have become red and inflamed and it may seem as if it only fits loosely around the affected tooth rather than snugly.

When you see your dentist, they can diagnose the problem usually by taking an x-ray or carrying out a couple of simple tests on the tooth. Normally a dentist will provide immediate treatment to help relieve the pain and they may prescribe antibiotics to help clear up the infection.

Why It’s Vital to Seek Treatment as Soon as You Can

Apart from the pain of having a badly infected tooth, it is important to get treatment as quickly as you can. This will help relieve the discomfort but it will also begin to get rid of the infection causing the pain.

If you don’t get rid of the infection, then it will continue to get worse. One thing that often deceives people is that the pain can disappear if the nerves inside the tooth die off because of the infection.

Unfortunately, this doesn’t mean the infection has gone and it will continue to spread. Eventually, the pressure will build up in the tooth, forcing the infection out beyond the tooth. It will begin to affect the surrounding tissues including your jawbone.

At this point, it’s highly likely that a dental abscess will form and it’s often characterized by a pimple on the gum. By this stage a particularly bad infection can affect general health, causing facial swelling, high fever and a feeling of being very poorly.

Leaving things to progress to this stage makes it far less likely that your dentist will be able to save the tooth. When a tooth is particularly badly infected then it may not be enough to simply clean out the root canals. Even placing antibiotics into the empty root canals may not eliminate the infection. Instead, your dentist may need to remove the tooth so the infection can drain.

Obviously losing a tooth is highly undesirable, especially when it could have been avoided had you sought treatment earlier.

What to Expect after Root Canal Therapy

Once the anesthetic wears off, your tooth may feel slightly sensitive for a few days. If you are in significant pain before treatment then you should immediately feel more comfortable. If you have antibiotics, make sure you continue to take them as directed until you have completed the course. This will help to eliminate the bacteria causing the infection, increasing the effectiveness of your root canal treatment.

It’s highly likely that your dentist placed a temporary filling in your root treated tooth. This is just to make sure all the infection is removed before a permanent filling is placed. This will most likely be done at your next appointment and will permanently seal the tooth, preventing reinfection. The next stage is to fully restore your tooth. Often a tooth that has become badly infected will also be badly broken down.

It may have lost a lot of its original structure, perhaps due to being heavily filled beforehand or being badly decayed. Whatever the reason, the most common way to restore a root treated tooth is with a dental crown that fits right over the tooth and right down to the gum line. This protects and preserves the tooth, hopefully ensuring you enjoy many years of trouble-free use.

What to Do If a Root Treated Tooth Becomes Re-infected

Unfortunately, sometimes a tooth that has received root canal therapy will become re-infected. When this happens, your dentist will carefully assess the situation and will suggest the most suitable treatment.

Sometimes it may be possible for the tooth to be treated again and repeating root canal therapy could be enough to clear up the infection for the second time. However, sometimes it may be better to consider alternative treatments.

Good root canal therapy can be quite expensive. Sometimes it can be better to have the tooth removed and to spend this money on getting it properly replaced with a long-term solution such as a dental implant.

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