Dental examination

A Q & A session with an expert to address common concerns patients might have about Root Canal Treatment – who needs it, how straightforward and pain-free is it and how much does it cost?

What is a root canal? Where in your mouth is it found and what function does it serve? These are questions that many people are unlikely to know the answers to – unless of course they have received Root Canal Treatment.

London dentist Ethicare has a specialist dentist who offers this procedure. We’ll be asking an expert from the practice some questions about the subject later in this article, but firstly it is useful to understand what a Root Canal is.

Definition of Root Canal

A root canal is the space within the root of a tooth which is filled with dental pulp; loose connective tissue which nourishes and hydrates the tooth structure.

The pulp tissue helps make the tooth less brittle and less vulnerable to becoming damaged when chewing hard foods. Nerve endings in the root canal also ‘tell’ a tooth which food and liquids are hot and which are cold.

Why is Root Canal Treatment needed?

The procedure is often required when the pulp tissue in the root canal becomes damaged. Common causes of damage include deep decay, blows to teeth and cracks in the teeth.

There is a risk of infection if the pulp is affected; a condition which can lead to abscesses, pain, swelling and, sometimes, the need for extraction.

Root Canal Treatment: What does the procedure involve?

Routine treatment typically lasts 90 minutes and is performed under a local anaesthetic. It involves making an opening through the top of the tooth, removing the pulp tissue and cleaning the cavity with an antiseptic before filling it again.

I asked Dr Glafcos Tombolis – who runs London dental practice Ethicare with his wife Klaudia – some questions I would want to know the answers to if I was facing Root Canal Treatment.

Question: How do you assess whether someone needs Root Canal Treatment?

Glafcos Tombolis: We look for evidence of infection and carefully use X-Rays if we think a patient might need the procedure. We also consider factors such as symptoms – when a patient comes in for a check-up, do they report feeling pain in a tooth?

Q: So, if I’m not suffering from pain then I shouldn’t have enough of a decay issue to warrant treatment?

GT: No, unfortunately it doesn’t work like that. Pain is not always an indicator of the level of decay. You can feel no pain but still have enough decay to require Root Canal Treatment. This is why it’s so vital to have regular check-ups to see if there are any problems you might not be aware of. Check-ups give our dentists a great chance to identify any other indicators which may necessitate root canal treatment. There are people wandering around who don’t know they need Root Canal Treatment – so don’t put off booking regular check-ups!

Q: Are there any restrictions on eating and drinking before the operation?

GT: No, Root Canal Treatment just requires a local anaesthetic so it’s best to carry on eating and drinking as normal before the procedure.

Q: If I receive root canal treatment how many days do I need to book off work?

GT: You shouldn’t need to book any time off for routine treatment.

Q: How much pain can a patient expect to feel?

GT: Sometimes you can feel some discomfort for two to three days afterwards though often there is no pain at all. Antibiotics may be prescribed to prevent post-operative infection. You shouldn’t feel any pain during the treatment as our specialist is an expert at managing our patients as well as the local anaesthetic at her disposal.

Q: How long does it take for the anaesthetic to numb the affected tooth?

GT: It takes effect very quickly but the key is not to rush it but to wait three to five minutes for it to take effect. If you apply it to the right area you won’t feel a thing. We are so careful about managing the pain levels of patients because we know it’s so important.

Q: How quickly do you know whether an operation has been a success or not?

GT: There’s a success rate of 90 to 95 per cent but we don’t take chances and generally have a review period of six months to a year. Again, taking X-Rays is vital. We know just what to look for to identify problems and progress.

Q: Can you give an idea of the cost of root canal treatment?

GT: Generally, the cost ranges from £450 to £695.

Q: Finally: how safe is Root Canal Treatment? Should I be nervous about undergoing the procedure?

GT: This treatment can be so beneficial and modern developments in the dental industry have made it so much safer, quicker and more efficient. For instance, rotary instruments and microscopes, which Ethicare have been using for some time, can help clean the root canal more quickly and efficiently. The antiseptics used to clean root canals have also vastly improved; these have been researched for many years before being approved.

By making full use of the state-of-the-art equipment which is available, we can assure patients that they are in safe hands.

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