Root canal treatment or Endodontics are terms that can make many people feel immediately anxious or uncomfortable, but with modern developments in dentistry, this is no longer a painful, stressful procedure. In fact, it can be a great way to help patients keep their original tooth, which can prevent additional problems with the structure of the face and jaw in the future.
Root canal therapy becomes necessary when infection, caused by bacteria that live in the mouth, invade the tooth. This will cause the nerve in the tooth to die off which results in severe pain and eventually an abscess can form. This can happen after:
- Tooth decay
- Heavily restored or filled teeth
- Damage to teeth as a result of trauma
- Cracked teeth due to excessive grinding or clenching
- Periodontal or gum disease
Once the nerve in the tooth starts to die, the tooth may become painful, very sensitive to hot and cold and pain on biting. If left, this may develop into an abscess with associated swelling. Options at this stage are removal of the tooth or root treatment.
Root fillings traditionally have a bad reputation, but with adequate anaesthesia the procedure, although lengthy, should be comfortable.
Once anaesthesia has been achieved, a rubber dam is used to isolate the tooth. This prevents bacteria re-entering the tooth and ensures the dentist has sterilised the root canal system.
A small hole is made in the crown of the tooth and the root canal system is located; this can be quite complex in molar teeth and, at this stage, the dentist will decide if you need to be referred to a specialist who can locate a more difficult root canal with microscopes.
The canals are cleaned with fine rotary files and flushed with disinfectant, dried and filled to prevent bacteria from re-entering the tooth. These days a root canal is usually 90% effective on molar teeth and even more so on front teeth where the canals are less complex, however, occasionally they will fail and the tooth will have to be removed.
As said before, root treatment is often carried out on badly damaged teeth so it will need to be restored. Your dentist will often recommend a crown to prevent further damage particularly on molar teeth. This will protect the remaining cusps, hopefully to prevent cracking and seal the tooth from bacteria.
It should be noted that sometimes a root treated tooth may have to be re-treated several years later.
Further information can be found at;
British endodontic society