What is Root Canal Treatment?
Simply put, it is a procedure carried out to maintain and save badly infected or broken down teeth. Every tooth has a core that houses the tooth’s blood and nerve supply. When a tooth is badly infected the core is infected. Root canal treatment (RCT) aims to disinfect the core and ready it for a filling.
Why would you need a root canal treatment?
If your tooth is infected or broken down and is causing you ongoing pain and discomfort and there is a benefit to you for maintaining the tooth then RCT is the treatment of choice.
What causes infection in a tooth?
Infection in a tooth can be caused by a number of the following:
- Gum disease
- Crack or chip in a tooth
- Extreme wear
- A deep cavity
- A broken filling or crown
- Repeated dental work on a tooth
If a tooth is infected a patient may experience the following symptoms:
- Tooth discolouration
- Sensitivity to heat or cold
- Swelling or soreness in the gums surrounding the tooth
- Sometimes an infected tooth can be silent with little to no pain-these cases can be problematic as this can lead to a spreading infection without detection.
Benefits of root canal treatment over an extraction
The benefits of RCT are individually determined. However in the right patient RCT can maintain a tooth avoiding its extraction and the possible negative flow on effects after an extraction. The negative effects which may occur following extractions can include but are not limited to the following:
- Tipping, tilting and over eruption of adjacent and opposing teeth. This can lead to a change in function, aesthetics and ability to adequately clean your teeth.
- Discomfort on chewing.
- Short term sensitivity on adjacent teeth.
- Increasing the load on adjacent teeth which may lead to cracks and fractures.
Can a general dentist perform root canal treatment?
Not all general dentists are well trained or have the experience to carry out RCT. However, a general dentist can carry out RCT. Your dentist will determine if your case can be managed in a general setting or if it requires a specialist (Endondontist) intervention.
What is involved in a root canal treatment?
When a patient presents with some pain or discomfort with a particular tooth or area then we take a thorough history of the presenting complaint, clinically check the area, carry out a few non-invasive tests and take an X-ray. The information is collected and a diagnosis is made. The patient is informed of their options.
RCT treatment is usually carried out over two to three appointments. The appointments are spaced approximately 2 weeks apart.
- First appointment: The patient is numbed up with local anaesthetic, the tooth is isolated and the core of the tooth is accessed, cleaned, measurements are taken and a dressing is applied followed by a temporary filling
- Second appointment: The same procedure as above with possibly further cleaning and shaping of the area, the core and canals can be filled at this appointment or the dentist may decide to allow for a third appointment to allow for more time to clear the infection etc.
- Third appointment: Similar setup as the previous two appointments, the core and canals of the tooth are filled and a permanent filling is placed.
The patient is usually followed up with a review appointment.