Root Canal Treatment (Endodontics)
Endodontics, or root canal treatment, is the last option to save a tooth and is the alternative to extraction. This treatment can save your natural teeth and prevent the need for bridges or dental implants.
What is Root Canal Treatment?
Every tooth has a nerve and blood vessels, or pulp, in it. Sometimes this pulp dies, due to decay, a large filling or injury to the tooth. This can lead to severe pain and infection (abscess), which can cause the tooth to become tender to bite on. The pulp is housed in hollow canals in the tooth. Root treatment is the cleaning of these canals and removal of any pulp tissue and infection.
A Root Filling is then placed to prevent the bacteria coming back in to the tooth and this allows the tooth and surrounding tissues to heal.
What does it involve?
A local anaesthetic will be given and then a “rubber” sheet placed over the tooth to isolate it and keep it dry and clean. The dentist will then use some instruments to clean out the tooth. The treatment consists of three or four basic steps and can normally be done in one or two appointments depending on the tooth and amount of infection. Sometimes it is better to take several appointments to increase the chances of success.
There are, of course, no guarantees. The success of endodontic treatment is about 80%, depending on the tooth involved. We will discuss the success rate and any risks associated with the treatment. If a root canal treatment is not successful, there are still options for the tooth.
After root treatment the dentist may suggest placing a crown, or some form of laboratory made “filling” (onlay) to protect the tooth. Removing the pulp weakens the tooth and so the tooth requires something to hold it together. A root-filled tooth with a crown or onlay can last years.
As with every treatment in dentistry, there are some risks to having root treatment.
- The tooth can fracture after treatment. This is because carrying out root canal treatment can weaken the tooth. Often the dentist will recommend a crown or onlay to hold the tooth together.
- The tiny files that clean out the pulp can break and be left in the tooth. Sometimes the dentist can work around them but others need a referral to a specialist.
- Overfilling or underfilling the canals can occur because of difficulties in getting down the canals or having wide canals.
- Hypochlorite accidents can occur when the liquid that is used to disinfect the canals leaks out.
- Perforations can occur when cleaning the canals.
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