Root Canal Treament
The outside of a tooth is a hard crystalline material called enamel. Underneath this hard layer is a slightly softer layer called dentine. Below the dentine is a soft tissue called the dental pulp. The pulp contains blood vessels, nerves and connective tissue, and helps to grow the root of your tooth during development and continues to provide nutrients during life. However, in a fully developed tooth, the tooth can survive without the pulp because the tooth continues to be nourished by the tissues surrounding it.
Root canal treatment, or the correct term Endodontic treatment, treats this inside pulp of the tooth. Endodontic treatment is necessary when the pulp becomes inflamed or infected. The inflammation or infection can have a variety of causes: deep decay, repeated dental procedures on the tooth, after crowns, or a crack or chip in the tooth. Also, trauma to a tooth may cause pulp damage even if the tooth has no visible chips or cracks. If pulp inflammation or infection is left untreated, it can cause pain or lead to an abscess. However, on many occasions a dentist may spot infection on a tooth coincidentally after taking an X-ray when maybe even looking at a different tooth.
Not all teeth have the same number of root canals and some can be tricky to find. At 183dental we have the benefit of using magnification and an operating microscope to assist us in carrying out optimal root treatment.
During root canal treatment, the inflamed or infected pulp is meticulously removed and the inside of the tooth is carefully cleaned, disinfected and shaped to allow a root filling to be placed. A rubber dam may be placed over the tooth which helps to keep the cleaned root canal sterile. Throughout treatment the dentist may need to take X-rays to check the length of the tooth. The root canal is filled and sealed with a rubber-like material called gutta-percha. Afterwards, the tooth is often restored with a crown or filling for protection. Teeth which have had root canal treatment are around six times more likely to fracture so almost always a crown is recommended especially on back teeth.
Success of root canal treatment can be as high as 95% over a period of 8 years. This may be reduced if the tooth has been heavily infected prior to treatment, if treatment is delayed or if the tooth is not crowned after treatment.
Sadly patients are often anxious about root canal treatment due to the perceived unpleasantness of root treatment. Thankfully modern root canal treatment is very similar to having a routine filling and usually can be completed in one or two appointments, depending on the condition of your tooth and your personal circumstances. Most patients can expect a comfortable experience during and after your appointment. Around 3% of patients have some discomfort between appointments. On occasions antibiotics may be necessary but antibiotics are not a substitute to good root treatment. Antibiotics will not remove infection within the root canal although they may reduce an acute flare up in the short term along with conventional treatment.
Saving the natural tooth with root canal treatment has many advantages:
Normal biting force and sensation
Protects other teeth from excessive wear or strain
Endodontic treatment helps you maintain your natural smile, continue eating the foods you love and limits the need for ongoing dental work. With proper care, most teeth that have had root canal treatment can last as long as other natural teeth and often for a lifetime.
Please see the information provided on the British Endodontic Society webpage here.
Also a really useful page is the American Association of Endodontists website here.