What is a Root Canal?
Root canal treatment, known as ‘root canal’ or endodontic treatment, is treatment of a tooth with a dead or dying dental pulp. This is also known as the ‘nerve’ of the tooth. Usually root canal treatment is required because the pulp has become inflamed or infected by bacteria. Our aim is to save the tooth from extraction by only removing the inflamed/infected pulp and then filling up the space with an appropriate material so it is sealed off properly.
Why would you need a Root Canal?
Teeth become inflamed or infected with bacteria, and cause pain. This pain presents as either extreme sensitivity or tenderness to biting, or in the worst case, with swelling in the mouth or face. Sometimes there is also tooth discolouration.
Infection or inflammation of the pulp is caused by:
- a deep cavity
- breakdown of a filling or crown
- gum disease
- crack or chip in the tooth
- extreme wear
- extensive dental work
Different teeth have different anatomy with front teeth , canines and premolars usually having one or two canals, and molars three or four canals. All root canals in the affected tooth must be treated.
How is it done?
Your dentist ensures you are numb, and drills into the tooth to remove the pulp with special files. Each canal is cleaned, enlarged and shaped. Antibacterial and anti-inflammatory medicines are placed inside the canals to help stop infection and inflammation. Once your dentist is satisfied that the canals are completely clean, a root filling material is placed inside. This is usually a rubbery material called gutta percha, sealed with a cement. During the procedure your dentist will take X-rays to check they have cleaned and sealed the canals fully, and the entire procedure may take several visits.
Teeth which have received root canal therapy are weaker than your other teeth, so need a protective filling over the top to help minimise the risk of them splitting. Your dentist will advise you on the best filling option for you. Often this is a crown or a large composite resin restoration.
Root canal treatments are highly successful, (with success rates over 95%) and the best way we can help you retain your tooth long term. It can be challenging and complicated, but all efforts will be aimed to make the treatment comfortable, straightforward, and pain free.
Root canal treatment has complications, like all aspects of dentistry. These complications include:
- failure of the procedure – this can happen due to abnormal anatomy, cracks, resistant bacteria
- altered feeling or flare up pain between visits
- fracture of endodontic instruments within the canal
- failure to find and treat canals
- bleach burn due to irrigation of canals
- passing medicines or materials out past the end of the root canal, causing discomfort
If during treatment it is found that the root canal is too difficult for us to complete, we have excellent specialists we can refer you to. Otherwise, you can choose to have your tooth extracted.