What is endodontic treatment?
Root canal treatment treats disorders of the pulp, commonly called the “nerve” of the tooth. It is a treatment that aims to eliminate pain and save a tooth with a diseased, infected or badly damaged pulp (nerve).
To understand endodontic treatment, it helps to know something about the anatomy of the tooth. Inside the tooth, under the white enamel and a hard layer called the dentin, is a soft tissue called the pulp.
The pulp contains blood vessels, nerves, and connective tissue and creates the surrounding hard tissues of the tooth during development.
The pulp extends from the crown of the tooth to the tip of the roots where it connects to the tissues surrounding the root. The pulp is important during a tooth’s development.
However, once a tooth is fully mature it can survive without the pulp, because the tooth continues to be nourished by the tissues surrounding it.
Why would I need an endodontic procedure?
Endodontic treatment is necessary when the pulp, the soft tissue inside the root canal, becomes inflamed or infected.
The inflammation or infection can have a variety of causes:
- Deep decay
- Repeated dental procedures
- Very large fillings
- Severe gum disease
- Loose fillings
- Excessive wear of teeth
- Physical blow to a tooth
- Continual clenching or grinding
Regardless of the cause, the tooth pulp becomes irritated and infected. Bacteria grow within the tooth pulp causing pressure and pain sometimes accompanied by swelling of the face.
What are the signs of needing endodontic treatment?
Signs to look for include pain, prolonged sensitivity to heat or cold, tenderness to touch and chewing, discoloration of the tooth, and swelling, drainage and tenderness in the lymph nodes as well as nearby bone and gingival tissues.
Sometimes, however, there are no symptoms.
How does endodontic treatment save the tooth?
The dentist removes the inflamed or infected pulp, carefully cleans and shapes the inside of the canal, a channel inside the root, then fills and seals the space.
Afterwards, the dentist may place a crown or other restoration on the tooth to protect and restore it to full function. After restoration, the tooth continues to function like any other tooth.
Will I feel pain during or after the procedure?
Many endodontic procedures are performed to relieve the pain of toothaches caused by pulp inflammation or infection. With modern techniques and anaesthetics, most patients report that they are comfortable during the procedure.
For the first few days after treatment, your tooth may feel sensitive, especially if there was pain or infection before the procedure. This discomfort can be relieved with over-the-counter or prescription medications. Follow your Dentist’s instructions carefully.
Your tooth may continue to feel slightly different from your other teeth for some time after your endodontic treatment is completed. However, if you have severe pain or pressure or pain that lasts more than a few days, call the practice.
Endodontic treatment can often be performed in one or two visits and involves the following steps:
- The dentist examines and x-rays the tooth, then administers local anaesthetic. After the tooth is numb, the dentist places a small protective sheet called a ‘dental dam’ over the area to isolate the tooth and keep it clean and free of saliva during the procedure.
- The dentist makes an opening in the crown of the tooth. Very small instruments are used to clean the pulp from the pulp chamber and root canals and to shape the space for filling.
- After the space is cleaned and shaped, the dentist fills the root canals with a biocompatible material, usually a rubber-like material called ‘gutta-percha’. The gutta-percha is placed with an adhesive cement to ensure complete sealing of the root canals. In most cases, a temporary filling is placed to close the opening. The temporary filling will be removed by your dentist before the tooth is restored.
We will usually take at least 2 x-rays but sometime we have to take perhaps 4/5. It depends on the tooth. Generally the more roots on the tooth and the more difficult the root treatment: the more x-rays we will take.
After the final visit for the endodontic treatment you will return to your dentist to have a crown or other restoration placed on the tooth to protect and restore it to full function.
If the tooth lacks sufficient structure to hold the restoration in place, your dentist may place a post inside the tooth. Ask your dentist for more details about the specific restoration planned for your tooth.
Possible risks and complications
There are many risk and complications associated with root treatment and these are outlined on our Consent Form for RCT’s. There are also issues related to the final restoration.
Root Canal Treatment may result is lifetime solution with no further problems or expenditure however in other cases it should be considered a transition treatment.