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Root canals: all you need to know

It’s a common scenario. You wake with a throbbing toothache and a swelling cheek. A trip to the dentist tells you that you have an infection deep in the nerve and you have one of two options. You can have the tooth extracted. Or, you can opt for root canal treatment to save it.  A root canal is one of the most common dental procedures performed. But what exactly is it and what does the procedure involve?

We chat with expert Dr Constanza Cáceres about the treatment, her move to Hong Kong and her job as an Endodontist – a dentist specially trained to save teeth.

Tell us about your move to Hong Kong

Hailing from Santiago in Chile, Dr Constanza arrived here two years ago to begin the gruelling task of becoming a HK-accredited medical professional.

Dr Constanza
Dr Constanza

Despite years practising as an endodontist in both the public and private systems in Chile, she found herself with her nose back in the books, studying for her relocation to Hong Kong. Our city has a renowned series of exams all foreign doctors are required to pass to practice as a HK dentist.

Senior dental surgeon and owner of Diestel Dental Group, Dr Jain Sandeep, recollects his own experience of sitting the exams decades ago. “Only a small percentage of expat doctors who sit the exams ever pass. They are extremely tough. It’s a great credit to Dr Constanza that she passed each exam on the first attempt.”

Dr Sandeep Jian
Dr Jain Sandeep

Now on the other side of her study sabbatical, the Chilean is happily settled into her new expat life and her role at Bayside Dental in Clearwater Bay. She says, “Hong Kong is a great place to work. I’m enjoying the variety of opinions, with lots of professional exchange and counsel. We really are a medical team here.”

Within that team Dr Constanza’s main focus is root canal treatment along with general dentistry, using a special microscope that helps her perform the procedure. Here, she shares some insight into this common dental treatment.

What exactly is a root canal?

A root canal is a procedure where we disinfect the inside of your tooth – it’s required when a tooth’s decay is so deep it reaches the nerve. The purpose of a root canal is to save the tooth from extraction.

What happens during a root canal?

We use local anaesthesia and work on the tooth to disinfect it on the inside. This is done by cleaning it using a special file. We also irrigate with liquid disinfectant. Once the inside of the tooth is cleaned, we fill it in with a special material that is flexible but firm at the same time.

Does the procedure hurt?

The procedure will be done under local anaesthesia, so it shouldn’t hurt. Occasionally the tooth may be a little sore afterwards, depending on how infected the tooth was previously. The whole treatment generally takes one to two sessions. However, time will vary depending on the tooth and the complexity of the case. With advancements in technology in the last couple of years, we can do a lot better with magnification loupes for root canal treatments.

Will I need time off work?

You can go back to work after your treatment, just like most dental appointments. You may need two or three sessions, depending on the nature of the infection.


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