Root canal treatment (also called ‘Endodontic’) is needed when the pulp inside your tooth becomes infected through tooth decay or damaged due to an injury to your mouth. An infection that is not controlled early enough could spread through the root canal system, which could eventually lead to an abscess, causing major discomfort. If root canal treatment is not performed, you may need to have the tooth extracted. The aim of endodontic is to remove all infection from the root canal, cleaning and filling it to prevent further infection. A temporary filling is the placed in and the tooth is left to settle. Once the tooth is checked at a later date, and the infection has cleared, a permanent filling is completed.
When the nerve tissue or tooth is damaged, it allows for bacteria to multiply within the pulp of the tooth. The decay can cause an infection or an abscessed tooth, which can cause various problems, such as swelling that may spread to other areas of the face, neck, or head, or bone loss around the tip of the root.
Although you may sometime not experience any symptoms, signs that a root canal is needed include:
- Severe toothache pain upon application of pressure (i.e. chewing).
- Prolonged sensitivity.
- Discolouration of the tooth.
- Swelling and tenderness in the nearby gums.
- Pimples on the nearby gums.
A root canal required one or more visits to the dentist and can be performed by a dentist on an endodontist. During your visit, we will take an x-ray to see the shape of the root canals and determine if there any signs of infection in the surrounding bone. Depending on the severity, we will discuss who may be best suited to perform the work in your particular case.
Generally, through an access hole, the tooth’s nerve and pulp, along with the bacteria and related debris, are removed and the inside of the tooth is cleaned. Depending on the circumstances, your tooth is then sealed, or medication may be put inside the tooth and sealed at a later date. Nevertheless, if the root canal is not complete on the same day, a temporary filling is placed in the exterior hole. Some additional dental work, such as crowns and posts and other restorations, may need to be placed on the tooth to protect it, prevent it from breaking and restore it to full function. However, we will discuss this at great length with you.
Although the process itself may be painless, the first few days following the completion of treatment, the tooth may feel sensitive and you may experience discomfort. This sensitivity and pain may be controlled with over-the-counter pain medication, such as Ibuprofen. Most patients can return to their normal activities the next day. It is key to maintain outstanding oral health.
Root canal treatment is highly successful and fixed teeth can last a lifetime. Nevertheless, despite best efforts to clean and seal teeth, new infections may emerge.
There are alternatives to root canal treatments, which involved tooth extractions and replacement with a bridge, implant, or removable partial denture(s) to restore chewing functionality and prevent surround teeth from moving.
Please also see our page on dental hygiene services.