Root canal (endodontic) treatment is carried out when the pulp sometimes referred to as the ‘nerve’ within a tooth becomes inflamed or dead (infected). The pulp is actually more than actually just nerve fibres; it is also comprised of blood vessels, connective tissue and a number of cells which maintain nutrition and health inside the tooth.
The pulp may become inflamed or infected for a number of reasons, for example, if there has been significant decay (cavity formation). The same situation can also occur in a tooth with a large restoration (filling or crown) or one which has been subjected to trauma. Whatever the cause, it is bacteria that are ultimately responsible for causing the pulp to become irreversibly inflamed or infected.
When the pulp dies, the space it inhabits (the root canal space) rapidly becomes infected with bacteria. This may cause pain and swelling in the surrounding tissues. This may cause a wide range of symptoms.
The purpose of root canal treatment is to remove the inflamed and/ or infected tissue from inside the root canal. This allows health to be obtained and/or maintained in the tissues around the tooth.
The tooth to be treated is first isolated with a rubber sheet (dam) which prevents contamination of the root canal system during the treatment.
Treatment in our practice is carried out using a surgical operating microscope. An opening in the tooth is made to allow location of the root canals. The canals are then cleaned and shaped with various instruments. Disinfecting solutions are used to help get the root canal system as clean as possible.
After cleaning of the root canal system has been completed, the space is sealed with a root filling to prevent reinfection. A material called gutta percha is normally used as the root filling material.
After the completion of root canal treatment we will refer you back to your own dentist to have the tooth permanently restored with a filling or crown (depending on the case). You will need to make arrangements to have this carried out. Leaving the tooth may increase the risk of failure and the likelihood that the tooth may fracture.
It is normally desirable to review the root treated tooth approximately 1 year after treatment has been completed in order to confirm that the treatment has been successful. This can be done very easily at your routine check up appointment with your own dentist.