What is Root Canal Treatment?
Root canal treatment involves the removal of the pulp tissues from the tooth in the event that it gets infected or inflamed. The pulp can become infected due to deep decay, a large restoration, a cracked or fractured tooth due to trauma, excessive wear of enamel and dentine exposing the pulp, and sometimes as a result of severe gum disease.
Signs of pulp damage may include pain, prolonged sensitivity to heat or cold, discoloration of the tooth, swelling, tenderness of the overlying gums or a bad taste in the mouth. On the other hand, there may be no symptoms at all. If pulp inflammation or infection is left untreated, it can eventually cause pain, swelling and loss of the supporting bone.
What are the advantages of Root Canal Treatment?
The main advantage is that root canal treatment saves teeth that would otherwise have been extracted.
After root canal treatment the tooth is pulp-less i.e. it has no vital tissues within. However, there are vital tissues surrounding the root e.g. the gum, periodontal membrane and supporting bone. A root canal treated tooth can function normally and can be maintained with routine dental care and oral hygiene measures.
What does Root Canal Treatment involve?
The first step in saving your tooth involves removing the infected or inflamed pulp. Often, we use x-rays to accurately determine the extent of infection and length of the root canals, and assist in successful treatment.
Using local anaesthetic to ensure you are comfortable, an opening is made in the crown of the tooth to get access to the pulp within and remove it. The root canals are cleaned and shaped using precise instruments, and flushed with an antibacterial solution to remove any debris.
The freshly cleaned root canals are filled and sealed with a rubber-like material called gutta-percha to prevent bacteria from entering. The tooth is then restored to full shape and function with a permanent filling or a crown, depending on how much of the tooth is left.
All root canal treatment procedures are performed by isolating the tooth with a rubber dam to provide a clean and saliva-free environment. Root canal treatment may be done in single or multiple visits depending on the complexity of the tooth. In between treatment appointments, medicaments may be placed within the canals and the tooth is covered with a temporary filling.
Frequently Asked Questions
Root canal treatment procedures are relatively comfortable and often painless as the tooth is anaesthetised during treatment. After treatment, the tooth may be sensitive or tender for a few days due to inflammation of the surrounding tissues. This discomfort can be relieved by taking mild analgesics or painkillers available over the counter at the pharmacy. However, if the pain persists and is severe, or a swelling occurs, you should contact your dentist.
To avoid any damage during treatment, try to avoid biting or chewing on the tooth being treated until it is permanently restored with a filling or crown.
Once treatment is complete, the best way to care for your tooth is to treat it just like your other natural teeth. It is important to practise good oral hygiene, including brushing and flossing twice a day. You also need to attend your dental examination appointments so your dentist can check your treated tooth regularly.
The only alternative to root canal treatment is to have the infected tooth removed. We want to do all we can to avoid this, so will always recommend root canal treatment first. A missing tooth can cause further problems with function and alignment, as well as affecting your facial structure. There could also be further costs involved with fitting a replacement tooth.