The aim of root canal treatment (also called endodontic treatment) is to save a tooth from extraction that has been badly damaged due to decay, disease or injury.
Most people prefer to save their tooth because it generally will function better than an artifical tooth.
Root canal treatment is successful in most cases. If you take good care of the tooth, it may last for many years and possibly the rest of your life.
Teeth are generally not treated with root canal therapy unless they are likely going to succeed. Root canal treatment may not be appropriate in some cases, and extraction may be the best, and only, option.
Infection or inflammation of the pulp (the nerve of the tooth) can be caused by:
- breakdown of a filling or crown
- a deep cavity
- gum disease
- crack or chip in the tooth
- extreme wear
- extensive dental work to the tooth
Symptoms may include pain, sensitivity to heat or cold, tooth discolouration, and swelling or soreness in the gums surrounding the tooth. To save the tooth, root canal treatment is needed when the pulp becomes severely inflamed or infected.
To improve the chances of success, root canal treatment should be started as soon as possible. All root canals in the affected tooth must be treated.
The front teeth (incisors) canines and premolars (bicuspids) typically have one or two root canals. The molars usually have three or four root canals.
If the pulp of the tooth is not treated quickly, severe pain and abscesses (infections at the end of the roots) can occur. If an abscess is left untreated, infection can damage the bone surrounding the root.
As an added service to our patients, we place internal bleach in front teeth following root canal therapy to minimise the risk of tooth discolouration.
The Root Canal Therapy Procedure
- The tooth in question is assessed and the likelihood of root canal therapy being successful is discussed with the patient. A quotation for the treatment including final restoration or crown is given.
- The patient has the choice at this time to go ahead with the root canal therapy or extract the tooth.
- If the patient agrees to root canal treatment they are given anaesthetic to numb the area and an access cavity is drilled into the top of the tooth.
- The nerve is removed with hand files (extirpation) and anti-inflammatory medication is placed into each root canal. The access cavity is then temporarily closed for a week.
- At the next appointment, the access cavity is re-opened and each canal is prepared to a specific size and depth depending on the size of the roots of the tooth, determined by x-ray, using hand or rotary files (Mechanical Preparation).
- Anti-bacterial medication is placed into each root canal. The access cavity is then closed for another week or two.
- In the case of infectin, the anti-bacterial dressing may be replaced several times before treatment is continued to make sure the infection has cleared and the surrounding bone has started to heal.
- Once the tooth and bone are determined as ready by your dentist the root canals are filled to their predetermined length and shape with Gutta-Percha (Obturation).
- A final restoration (filling), or crown is placed on the tooth depending on the amount of remaining tooth structure.