What is root canal therapy?
Infection and inflammation within a tooth can be treated in one of two ways: by extraction or by means of root canal therapy (RCT). In most cases when a tooth is compromised, it is preferable to save the tooth with RCT if at all possible.
The “living” part of the tooth, known as the pulp, consists of sensitive nerves and blood vessels. In the event of infection or inflammation, the pulp can become very painful and if left untreated can allow an abscess to form at the root tip or even allow bacteria to enter the jaw bone. The purpose of RCT is to remove the affected pulp in order to save the tooth and prevent proliferation of the bacteria.
The most immediate benefit of RCT is it can provide significant pain relief. A long-term benefit of RCT is it preserves your natural tooth. This is in contrast to tooth extraction, which leaves a space that in turn, needs to be filled with a dental bridge or with an implant and crown – both expensive treatments.
The downside of root canal therapy is it does inevitably weaken the remaining natural tooth to some extent. However, this problem can be significantly overcome with the fitting of a crown.
Is root canal therapy suitable for you?
If you’re experiencing pain or discomfort from a particular tooth, a checkup with one of our dentists will identify the cause of the problem and whether RCT is an appropriate treatment.
RCT is most suitable when the affected tooth can be realistically saved for the long term. Assuming the tooth in question is not severely damaged, cracked or decayed and the surrounding gum is relatively healthy, root canal therapy is generally recommended.
This treatment is normally unsuitable where the tooth is beyond saving, in cases of severe infection, or when the tooth is badly damaged or likely to fall out later due to poor gum health. For patients on a tight budget, extraction is a more affordable option. If extraction is planned, serious consideration should be given to whether the gap thus created would need to be filled later.
What is the procedure for treatment?
Root canal therapy falls within the specialist field of endodontics. Hence, the key consideration is who should perform the procedure: a general dentist or a registered specialist? While Core Dental Group’s general dentists do perform RCT routinely, we always recommend an endodontist in more complex cases so as to reduce the risk of complications.
The treatment process is as follows:
- Small holes are created in the top part of the tooth, giving access to the canals.
- The affected pulp is removed and the canals are thoroughly cleaned and irrigated with an anti-bacterial preparation.
- The canals are filled with synthetic material which provides a seal.
All this takes between one and three sessions.
To maximise longevity, it is recommended the RCT-treated tooth be protected with either a restoration (a filling) or a crown.