Root canal infections – what’s the root cause?

What is a root canal infection?

Every tooth has a root canal. Some of your teeth have more than one. At the heart of each root is soft, spongy dental pulp which extends from the crown (the part of the tooth you can see) to the end of the root (the part that’s embedded in your gum and jaw).

When bacteria manages to enter the root it becomes infected. This might happen because of tooth decay but it could also be caused by other damage to your teeth (for example, as the result of a fall).

When bacteria enters the root canal it attacks the pulp, causing the tissue around the tooth to become painful and swollen. It’s at this point you’ll need to book an appointment at your Winchester dentist, where we will either remove the tooth (if the bacteria has killed it) or attempt to save it with root canal treatment.

What happens during root canal treatment?

Root canal treatment involves ensuring we’ve cleared the canal of all infection, and then sealing the tooth (usually with a filling or crown) so it can’t become infected again. The treatment is normally carried out under local anaesthetic and should feel much the same as having a filling.

In the vast majority of cases the root canal treatments we carry out at our Winchester dental centre do manage to save the tooth.

How can I prevent the need for further root canal treatment?

Since one of the major causes of root canal infection is tooth decay, keeping your teeth and gums healthy is the most effective way to avoid root canal problems. You can do that by following these tips:

• Diet: Limit the number of sugary and starchy foods and drinks you consume, especially between meals. Avoid them completely in the hour before you go to bed.

• Don’t smoke: It can make dental problems worse.

• Brush your teeth properly: Most of the people who visit our Winchester dental surgery brush their teeth at least twice a day, but not everyone brushes properly. Here’s how you can put that right:

– Brush your teeth in the same order every time so you don’t miss bits. Front, back, biting surface, and then repeat for the other row of teeth. Gently brush your gums and tongue too.
– Use the right amount of fluoride for you (ask your Winchester dentist for details).
– Spend 2 minutes brushing – use a stopwatch or egg-timer to help. 2 minutes of careful brushing is far better than the ‘quick fix’ of shorter, harder brushing, as this can damage the enamel of some teeth, and miss others altogether.
– Spit out any excess toothpaste after brushing, but don’t rinse your mouth. Let the toothpaste do its job.

• Visit your Winchester dentist: Visit us regularly at Oliver’s Battery Dental Surgery, Winchester. Regular check-ups and the occasional scale and polish will help keep tooth decay – and root canal infection – at bay.

Make your appointment

Book your appointment with your Winchester dental surgery using the form on the right, or call us on 01962 877 877.