What is Root Canal Therapy and what are the advantages of this treatment? To answer these questions, it’s best to start with a quick review of the anatomy of a tooth.
The tooth is composed of:
- Enamel – the outer layer of the tooth
- Dentine – the major part of the tooth underneath the enamel and forms
- Dental pulp – the tissue that includes the nerve and blood vessels in the centre of the tooth
What is root canal therapy?
Root canal therapy is a common treatment for cases in which the dental pulp of a tooth has been damaged or become infected.
If dental caries (also known as decay) has proceeded as far the dental pulp, then pulp damage will occur. Apart from decay, the pulp may also be damaged by trauma, periodontal disease (progressed gum disease), cracks in teeth, etc.
The following tests may be performed to check the vitality (health) of the tooth:
- Radiographs: to check for any signs of infection
- Cold test: application of cold instrument to the tooth
- Heat test: application of heat to the tooth
- Percussion: gently tapping the tooth.
The symptoms of a pulp infection include:
- pain when eating or drinking hot or cold foods and drinks
- pain upon biting or chewing (in some cases)
- the tooth may feel loose.
As the infection progresses, these symptoms often disappear as the pulp dies. The tooth then appears to have healed, but in fact the infection is spreading through the root canal system. Eventually further symptoms occur, such as:
- gum swelling
- facial swelling
- pus may be present
- pain when biting or chewing
- the tooth becoming darker in colour.
It is important that you see us immediately if you suffer from any toothache. Please contact us for an emergency appointment.
The root canal therapy treatment process
To treat the infection in the root canal, the bacteria need to be removed. This can be achieved by:
- removing the tooth (extraction), or
- saving the tooth by removing bacteria from the Root Canal System (Root Canal Treatment) and the filling this space.
Root canal treatment involves cleaning bacteria from the root canal system filling the root canal and sealing the tooth with a filling and crown.
Root canal treatment should not be painful because local anaesthetic is usually used. The procedure is usually very successful and should be no more unpleasant than having a filling. Of all root canal–treated teeth, 90% of survive for up to 10 years.
Antibiotics (medication to treat bacterial infections) are believed to be ineffective in treating root canal infections. This is because the active ingredient in antibiotics can only work by reaching the site of the infection through your blood, and the bacteria that cause the infection are within the root canal system.
Advantages of saving teeth if there is still enough remaining tooth structure present
No artificial replacement is as good as a natural tooth. As a general rule, teeth should ideally be saved for as long as possible so as to:
- enable better chewing function
- secure the position of neighbouring teeth
- avoid visible spaces between teeth (better aesthetics)
- retain the surrounding bone (as soon as a tooth is removed, the bone in this area will resorb, or shrink.