Root Canal Therapy (Endodontic Treatment)
Root canal therapy can be performed by your regular dentist or a specialist endodontist.
A root canal treatment can save a badly infected or damaged tooth. The tooth may have become infected or damaged by decay, repeated dental work, wear and tear, gum disease, cracked fillings or an injury to the tooth.
When the dental pulp is damaged, bacteria can start to multiply inside the tooth. This can lead to an infection or abscess, which is a pocket of pus that forms at the end of the tooth’s root.
Saving your own tooth, if possible, is important. It works better than an artificial tooth for biting and chewing. Losing a tooth can lead to other problems in the mouth. Replacing a lost tooth with an artificial one often needs more complex dental procedures. Root canal treatment is often the best way of saving a tooth.
What are the signs I might need a root canal treatment?
Sometimes there are no symptoms that a tooth needs root canal treatment. More commonly, the signs include:
- Severe toothache when biting or chewing.
- Sensitivity to hot or cold that lasts after the heat or cold has been removed.
- Darkening of the tooth.
- Swollen and tender gums.
- Pus around an infected tooth.
- Swelling of the face or neck.
- A loose tooth.
What happens during a root canal treatment?
First, the dentist takes an x-ray of the tooth to see the shape of the root canals and determine whether there is any infection in the bone around the tooth.
A sheet of rubber called a rubber dam is placed over and around the tooth to isolate it from the rest of your mouth to prevent contamination. You will be able to breathe normally.
You will be given a local anaesthetic to numb the area around the tooth before drilling a hole in the tooth to remove the infected pulp. Each tooth has between 1 and 4 canals, depending on the tooth. All of the canals will be cleaned, shaped and disinfected, dressed in an antibacterial paste and a temporary filling.
It can take several appointments for the tooth to become clean and shape the hole inside it before finally placing a sterile filling. Between treatments, they will seal the tooth with a temporary filling and may place a metal band around it to protect it from cracking.
When the treatment is finished, sterile gutta percha is used to seal the pulpal canals. In some cases, a temporary cap/crown is placed over the whole tooth to prevent is from breaking down. In most cases, the tooth will need permanent crowning.
Root canal therapy can be a little more uncomfortable than normal fillings or restorations, this discomfort does not last for long though.