The aim of root canal treatment also called ‘Endodontic Treatment’ is to save a tooth that has been badly damaged due to decay, disease or injury.
Most people prefer to save their tooth from extraction by undergoing root canal treatment because it generally will function better than an artificial tooth. Your own tooth is usually stronger and more efficient for biting and chewing.
Root canal treatment is successful in most cases. If you take good care of the treated tooth, it may last for many years and possibly the rest of your life. Your tooth will not be treated unless the outcome is likely to succeed. Root canal treatment may not be appropriate in some cases, and extraction may be the best, or only option. All general dental practitioners are trained to perform root canal treatment, however in some instances patients may be referred by their dentist to a specialist called an ‘Endodontist’ who has special qualifications in root canal treatment.
Infection or inflammation of the pulp:
Infection or inflammation of the pulp can be caused by:
- Repeated dental work to the tooth
- Breakdown of a filling or crown
- A deep cavity
- Gum Disease
- Crack or chip in the tooth
- Extreme wear
Symptoms may include pain, sensitivity to heat and cold, tooth discolouration, and swelling or soreness in the gums surrounding the tooth. If the pulp cannot repair itself, it will initially become inflamed. If it is not treated, it will die and become infected. Root canal treatment is then needed to save the tooth.
To improve the chances of success, root canal treatment should start as soon as possible. All root canals in the affected tooth must be treated. If the pulp of the tooth is not treated quickly, severe pain and abscesses (infections at the ends of the roots) can occur. If an abscess is left untreated, infection can damage the bone surrounding the root. If the tooth does not have endodontic treatment, it will have to be removed.
The Root Canal Treatment Procedure:
Your Dentist or Endodontist will examine the tooth and take an x-ray, and a local anaesthetic is usually given to block pain. A sheet of latex called rubber dam, is used to isolate the tooth and keep it clean and dry during treatment. To reach the pulp, an opening through the tooth is made. Using special instruments called files, your Dentist or Endodontist will remove the inflamed or infected pulp.
Each root canal is cleaned, enlarged and shaped. Medications are then placed inside the canals to help stop the inflammation and infection. Root canal treatment is usually done over two to three visits, and each visit is two to four weeks apart. A temporary filling will be placed to protect the inside of the tooth between visits.
Pain or discomfort, if any, usually lasts no more than a few days, and will not be experienced by every patient. Some people may need a mild pain reliever such as paracetamol.
Completion of Treatment:
To protect the inside of the tooth and prevent further infection, the root canals are filled, and the pulp chamber is sealed. To help the healing process, you should continue to practice good oral hygiene,including brushing, and flossing and regular check-ups.
Fitting a Crown:
Your Dentist may recommend that the tooth requires a crown.If your Root Canal Treatment has been done by an Endodontist, then the Endodontist will recommend that you return to your Dentist for the crown. Usually a tooth that has had root canal treatment has an increased risk of fracture without the protection of a crown, so one should be fitted soon after treatment.
Typically made of porcelain or gold, the crown is needed to:
- Protect, strengthen and further seal the tooth
- Restore normal occlusion (the way the upper and lower teeth contact each other during biting and chewing)
- Restore an acceptable cosmetic appearance