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Is it possible to use medication to repair hurting roots that aren’t as damaged to warrant a root canal treatment?

Root canal treatment (RCT) is the cleaning of the innermost chamber of the tooth, the pulp. It is the pulp that provides the blood and nerve supply to the tooth and hence the source of pain. Once a cavity has touched the pulp of the tooth, or is very close to it, a root canal treatment is recommended.

The dentist removes the infected pulp and replaces it with a bio-compatible material. The pulp has to be removed from both the crown (the portion of the tooth that you see) and the canals of the root (the portion inside the bone). Hence the name, root canal treatment. Since this area is inside the bone, it is also the reason why the dentist requires some form of radio-graph  to determine the outline of the root and its canals.

At this level the cavity is very deep, since it has already infected the enamel, passed through the dentin layer of the tooth as well, and is now near the pulp. Once the cavity has reached dentin itself, a person will begin to have sensitivity and pain as it proceeds deeper towards the pulp. Any medication at this level, can only be placed by the dentist. What the dentist would do in such situations is, remove any infected dentin in the cavity, as much as possible, and apply the medication and then seal up the tooth with a temporary filling material. And then wait and watch, for a short period of about 3-4 weeks, approximately.

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What do toothpastes like Sensodyne do that regular toothpastes do not?

Ever wonder what is the difference between regular toothpastes and those senso-toothpastes? What do they do and why are they more expensive? Are they meant for old people? or sick people?

The short answer – those toothpastes are meant for sensitive teeth.

Tooth sensitivity is experienced during the intake of cold or hot beverages. At times a sudden blast of air or chewing on something sweet can also trigger this sensitivity. This is caused by the movement of fluid within tiny tubules present in the layer of the tooth called dentin. Ideally these are protected from the changes inside the mouth by the outermost layer of the tooth called enamel. But when the enamel gets worn away, the inner layer (dentin) gets exposed. Enamel can get worn away due to improper brushing, demineralization by acidic foods, cavities and abnormal grinding forces on the teeth. Regurgitation from the stomach or constant vomiting, as seen in bulimia, can also result in wearing away of the enamel since the tooth comes in contact with the stomach acids. Sometimes, bleaching the teeth can trigger sensitivity.

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Is flossing really as important as brushing?

sAP asked, “Is flossing really as important as brushing?”

Flossing targets areas that cannot be reached while brushing. Brushing targets all the visible tooth surfaces – labial (facing the lips), buccal (facing the cheeks), palatal (near the palate) and lingual (near the tongue).  It also covers the biting (incisal) and chewing (occlusal) surfaces. But there are two more surfaces that go untouched by the tooth brush. The mesial and distal, the sides contacting the adjacent teeth. Flossing removes plaque from these surfaces. So yes, it is as important as brushing. Since it caters to surfaces we do not see, we tend to undermine their role in maintaining good oral hygiene.

Dental floss is available at most pharmacies and stores. For those who don’t know how to floss, break off a piece of floss and entwine it between the forefingers of both hands or hold it between the fingers. Pass it in gently between 2 teeth, until you are beyond the contact point between teeth, and near the gums. You can make use of a floss holder, if you find it difficult to floss using your fingers. Take care not to injure the gums in the process. If you are not sure how to floss, your dentist will be able to show you the technique or check out the video embedded below. The wax-coated dental floss is easier to slide in between teeth. Once you have slid the floss in between the teeth, gently slide it back out contacting the sides of the tooth all along the way. Repeat this for each tooth using a clean portion of the floss each time.

Those who have crowding or improperly aligned teeth should take flossing more seriously, since they have more area untouched by the brush due to overlapping of the teeth. Food tends to get lodged in these areas that can lead to plaque accumulation.

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[Q&A] Infection in a root canal treated tooth

A reader asked:

“I got a root canal done in 1999. However, it has recently started hurting. :(. It’s a dull ache that comes and goes. I saw a dentist and she told me that I need a re-root canal as there is an infection. This was 4 months ago… if a root canal is done it cannot get infected right? I mean the tooth is already ‘dead’. How can it hurt?”

Ideally, a root canal treatment (RCT) done properly shouldn’t cause any problems. But here’s a list of things that could have gone wrong:

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