What is a root canal treatment?

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Also known as endodontics, root canal treatment is essentially a process of cleaning, shaping and then filling the inner canals of your tooth. Root canal treatment is required most commonly when decay extends through the enamel and dentine and then finally into the nerve of the tooth which leads to inflammation and/or infection. It may also occur in the presence of severe periodontal (gum) disease, cracked teeth and where large, old fillings are present and lead to the nerve dying inside the tooth. There may be one, two, three or even four canals in a single tooth, increasing in number as the teeth become larger further back in the mouth.

Why is a root canal treatment necessary?

Teeth which require a root canal treatment are often uncomfortable and their need for treatment is obvious, but sometimes these teeth may have little or no symptoms initially which makes it difficult to recognise why treatment is required. Once the root canal of a tooth becomes infected the body is unable to remove the bacteria growing inside the tooth which eventually leads to further spread of bacteria, discomfort or pain. In some cases facial swelling may occur and fortunately only rarely, hospital admission. The infection inside the tooth can be effectively removed by your dentist with a root canal treatment to ensure that the area is healthy again. Unfortunately however, once a tooth gets to the stage where a root canal treatment is indicated, the only alternative is removal of the tooth.

What to expect during your appointments?

Although it may sound confronting, root canal treatment is a comfortable procedure and feels very similar to a long filling appointment. It is made even more comfortable with the use of music and nitrous oxide (happy gas). Root canal treatment is divided into at least two appointments.

Is further treatment necessary?

Generally, root canal treatment is required on teeth that have had large and/or deep restorations, have previously broken or have fracture lines. The tooth has now lost its central source of strength so is prone to severe fracture. Particularly with back teeth, a crown is therefore essential to protect the tooth by providing long-term structural support and sealing the tooth and root canal from bacteria entering from your mouth. About half of the long term success of a root canal treated tooth is related to the root canal treatment itself, and half is related to the quality of the final restoration on the tooth.