Root Canal Treatment

What is Root Canal treatment?

Root canal treatment is needed when the blood or nerve supply of the tooth (known as the pulp) is infected through decay or injury.   You may not feel any pain in the early stages of the infection.  In some cases, your tooth could darken in colour, which may mean that the nerve of the tooth has died (or is dying).  This would need root canal treatment.  In most cases if a tooth can be saved using Root Canal Treatment, with a good prognosis, that is the treatment of choice

Before Treatment            After Treatment

 

Why is root canal treatment needed?

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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 a dull ache to severe pain and the tooth may be tender when you bite.  If root canal treatment is not carried out, the infection will spread and the tooth may need to be taken out.

Most of the time, a root canal is a relatively simple procedure with little or no discomfort. Best of all, it can save your tooth and your smile.

What does the treatment involve?

The aim of the treatment is to remove all dead tissue and bacteria from the tooth.  The root is then cleaned and filled to prevent any further infection.  Root canal treatment is a skilled procedure.  Most courses of treatment will involve three appointments.

At the first appointment, the infected pulp is removed, and any abscesses can be drained. The root canal is then cleaned and shaped ready for the filling. A temporary filling is put in and the tooth is left to settle. The tooth is checked at a later visit and when all the infection has cleared, the roots are then permanently filled.   The tooth can then be restored  at your last appointment.

It is necessary to take a number of x-rays during the root canal treatment – these are required to check various treatment stages. Since the roots are under the gum and in bone, the root canals cannot be seen with the naked eye and can only be visualised using the assistance of x-ray.

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Will there be any Pain?

Root canal treatment is a comfortable procedure and it involves little or no pain as the tooth will be anaesthetised with local anaesthetic during treatment.

However, sometimes you may have discomfort after an appointment due to inflammation in the surrounding tissues which has been caused by the infection – this is usually relieved by the dressing that your dentist puts in your tooth but it may take a few days for the pain to go away completely.  Sometimes a mild analgesic (eg Panadol) may be required.

What if it happens again?

Unfortunately root canal treatments do not have a 100% chance of success. There is always a risk that the tooth may become re-infected again in the future. It is possible to have the root canal treatment redone with the same chances of success or you may decide to have the tooth removed and other options to replace it be considered.

 

What if I don’t have the treatment?

The alternative is to have the tooth extracted. Once the pulp is destroyed it can’t heal, and it is not recommended not to leave an infected tooth in the mouth as infections can spread throughout the body.

If possible we consider it best to keep as many natural teeth as possible.  Therefore we will usually recommend having Root Canal Treatment if we believe there is a good chance that the tooth can be saved.

The most obvious effect of missing teeth is aesthetic. The way you look affects the way you feel, and the psychological and social consequences of tooth loss can also be profound.  Tooth loss is not just about unsightly gaps; the loss of a tooth can affect eating, health and facial aesthetics.

The loss will over time effect the jaw bone and gum tissue will also gradually decreases. Other teeth may also drift out of position which may affect the ability to chew, speak and clean these teeth.  The more teeth lost, the more these problems can increase.

 

What happens if the tooth is not suitable for Root Canal Treatment?

If the dentist’s evaluation of the infected tooth is that a Root Canal Treatment would be unsuccessful (which only occurs in a very small number of cases).  Then the only option is to have the tooth removed.  Once the tooth has been removed, the gap can be filled with a bridge, denture or implant. If the gap is not filled then the shifting of other teeth can lead to further problems in the future.  If the bite is not maintained facial appearance may be affected as well as the function of the jaw. Tooth replacement (filling the gap) is also the best option for cosmetic and esthetic reasons.

 

What about aftercare?

Root-treated teeth should be treated just the same as any other tooth. Remember to clean your teeth for two minutes, twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste and regular preventative check-ups are recommend twice annually.