What is root canal treatment?
Root canal treatment (sometime referred to as endodontics) is needed when the blood or nerve supply of the tooth (known as the pulp) is infected through decay or injury.
Why is root canal treatment needed?
If the pulp becomes infected, the infection may spread through the root canal system of the tooth. This may eventually lead to an abscess, and if root canal treatment (RCT) is not carried out, the infection will spread and the tooth may need to be taken out.
Does it hurt?
No. A local anaesthetic is used and it should feel no different to having an ordinary filling done.
What does it involve?
The aim of the treatment is to remove all infection from the root canal. The root is then cleaned and filled to prevent any further infection. Root canal treatment is a skilled and time-consuming procedure. Most courses of treatment will involve two or more visits to your dentist.
At the first appointment, the infected pulp is removed. Any abscesses, which may be present, can also be drained at this time. The root canal is then cleaned and shaped ready for the filling. A temporary filling is put in and the tooth is left to settle.
The tooth is checked at a later visit and when all the infection has cleared, the tooth is permanently filled.
What will my tooth look like after treatment?
In the past, a root filled tooth would often darken after treatment. However, with modern techniques this does not usually happen. If there is any discolouration, there are several treatments available to restore the natural appearance. Very often the tooth will need to be crowned after root canal treatment.
What if it happens again?
Root canal treatment is usually very successful. However, if the infection comes back the treatment can be repeated.
What if I don’t have the treatment?
The alternative is to have the tooth out. Once the pulp is destroyed, it can’t heal and it is not recommended to leave an infected tooth in the mouth. Although some people would prefer an extraction, it is usually best to keep as many natural teeth as possible.
Will the tooth be safe after treatment?
Yes. However, it is better to restore the tooth with a crown to provide extra support and strength to the tooth.
Where can this treatment be carried out?
Root canal treatment is a routine dental procedure, which we carry out at our surgery. Very complicated cases where roots are extremely curved or root canals calcified may need to be referred to a specialist (endodontist).
What about aftercare?
Root canal treated teeth should be treated just the same as any other tooth. Remember to clean your teeth twice a day, preferably with a fluoride toothpaste. Cut down on sugary snacks, and keep them only to mealtimes if possible. See your dentist for regular check-ups.
Example of a root canal treatment
This is an example of a root canal treatment.
Patient had an active draining fistula on the buccal gum tissue at the premolar area and some level of discomfort.
At radiograph 1 a Gutta Percha point was placed in the fistula to assist diagnosis showing which tooth is causing the chronic infection. The less radioopaque area around the root of the premolar tooth is due to the bone damage caused by the chronic infection.
At radiograph 2 the root canal treatment has been completed and the root canal has been filled to the apex with Gutta Percha material. Gutta Percha is the material of choice in dentistry for filling in root canals. It will take up to 9 or even 12 months in some cases for the bone to heal around a root canal treated tooth as long as the root canal treatment is successful.
At radiograph 3 which was taken 3 months after the completion of the RCT it is clear that the bone has significantly recovered and clinically the fistula has disappeared from the gum.