Root canal treatment is required when the nerve of a tooth becomes infected or the pulp becomes damaged. The procedure is used to repair and save a tooth that is badly decayed or becomes infected.
When a root canal procedure is carried out, the nerve and pulp are removed and the inside of this section of the tooth are cleaned and sealed with a special dental material
What is a root canal?
A root canal is the space within the root of a tooth. It is part of a naturally occurring space within a tooth that consists of the pulp chamber (within the coronal part of the tooth), the main canal(s), and more intricate anatomical branches that may connect the root canals to each other or to the surface of the root. The smaller branches are most frequently found near the root end (apex) but may be encountered anywhere along the root length. There may be one or two main canals within each root. Some teeth have more variable internal anatomy than others.
This space is filled with a highly vascularized, loose connective tissue, the dental pulp. The dental pulp is the tissue which forms the dentin portion of the tooth. The formation of secondary teeth (adult teeth) is completed by 1-2 years after eruption into the mouth. Once the tooth has reached its final size and shape, the dental pulp’s original function ceases for all practical purposes. It takes on a secondary role as a sensory organ.
Why is root 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. An abscess is an inflamed area in which pus collects and can cause swelling of the tissues around the tooth. The symptoms of an abscess can range from dull ache to severe pain and the tooth may be tender when you bite. If root treatment is not carried out, the infection will spread and the tooth may need to be taken out.
What is involved?
Your dentist will need to take an X-ray image of your tooth to check whether or not you definitely need root treatment. This can help to show how far any decay has spread, if there is an abscess and how many root canals your tooth has. If you have a dead tooth or one with severely damaged pulp, root treatment may be the only way to repair it. If you do need to have root treatment, your dentist will give you a local anaesthetic. This completely blocks feeling from the area and you will stay awake during the procedure. Your tooth will be separated from the rest of your mouth using a thin sheet of rubber called a dam.
This keeps your tooth dry and protects your airway. It also allows effective cleaning of the root canal system and prevents it from becoming contaminated again, which can cause infection later. Your dentist will first make a hole in the top of your tooth through which the dead or diseased pulp is removed. The empty pulp cavity is then cleaned and your dentist may also put in some medication to help get rid of bacteria.Your dentist will then fill the root canals with a suitable material. This is likely to be a putty-like substance called guttapercha. A permanent filling or crown is then placed over the top of the tooth to protect your filled root canal and the vulnerable tooth structure.
- No root treatments are guaranteed, however, we have a high rate of success.
- The tooth is generally tender for a day or two after a root treatment. This is quite common, as is the need for painkillers, e.g. Asprin or paracetamol etc. or whatever painkillers you normally use. Antibiotics may also be needed. These will help to keep the inflammation down.
- It is important to follow up a root treatment with a permanent restoration of the crown part of the tooth with either a filling or a crown.
- A crown may be necessary because teeth become brittle after root treatment.