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Endodontics: Root Canal Therapy

Your dentist may have recommended root treatment for your tooth, this treatment is essential if you wish to keep it – but what is this essential treatment?

The most common reason for needing Endodontic treatment is infection. In most cases the dental pulp, (soft tissue inside the canal or channel that runs through the root of your tooth), has been damaged due to deep decay allowing bacteria to reach it. Unfortunately, once this happens a simple filling will no longer “fix” the tooth. Once the pulp has become inflamed or infected you may experience some symptoms such as:

  • Continuous pain
  • Extreme and/or prolonged sensitivity to hot or cold
  • Pain or discomfort when chewing
  • Discolouration of the tooth
  • Facial swelling

Sometimes you may have no symptoms at all, which is why regular dental check-ups are so important.


What is Endodontic treatment and how can it save your tooth?

Your dentist will remove the decay and access the infected dental pulp. During the root canal treatment, the infected pulp is removed and the canals are cleaned, disinfected and shaped. Sedative dressings and temporary fillings are placed inside your tooth between each visit to help settle the surrounding tissues and destroy bacteria.

This process relieves the inflammation and pain that you may have experienced; it is important to note that during this procedure little or no pain is generally experienced as the tooth is usually anaesthetised, (numb). At times you may have some discomfort after an appointment which can take a few days to settle, this can be caused by inflammation of the tissues surrounding the tooth – if you experience this you may take a pain killer such as Ibuprofen, if required. Should you experience severe pain, or the pain continues more than a few days, you should contact the dental surgery for advice.
The next step is to fill the roots of the tooth, sealing them off to prevent re-infection.

Root canal therapy can take several appointments, and depending on the complexity of the individual tooth, your dentist may suggest you have it completed by an Endodontist (an Endodontist is a dental specialist; they have completed additional postgraduate university training in this particular field and are better equipped for complex cases as they have advanced technology available, such as microscopes, and encounter and treat these types of cases every day).


Will X-rays be taken during this treatment?

In short, yes. It is necessary to take a number of radiographs (x-rays) during root canal treatment – these are required to check various treatment stages. As the roots of teeth are underneath the gum and in bone, the root canals cannot be seen with the naked eye and therefore your dentist will need the assistance of radiographs.


What happens AFTER treatment?

During the treatment your tooth will be sealed with a temporary filling material, after the treatment is completed you will need to restore it with a more permanent solution – your dentist will discuss this with you further, however generally a crown is the preferred option over a filling in most cases.


Will the treatment be successful?

Your dentist will only advise root canal treatment if there is a good chance it will last a long time. However, no guarantee can be given – people are all individuals and have different healing responses, and some infections may respond differently. Studies have shown that the majority of endodontic treatments are successful, if your case is less favourable then you will be informed. Another factor to remember, is that the tooth can fail if not restored properly after the endodontic treatment is completed – occasionally patients do not return to have the tooth permanently restored; after the pain settles, it can be an easy to forget about the tooth until it’s too late!


Is there an alternative to Endodontic treatment?

Root canal therapy is a safe procedure, there is no real substitute for your own tooth. The only other alternative to this treatment is to extract (remove) the tooth. If you decide to extract the tooth it is best to discuss replacement options with your dentist – they can advise you as to whether you may be a candidate for other treatments such as Implants, Bridges, or Partial Dentures. If you do not replace the tooth with an artificial one, the adjoining or opposing teeth may shift over time and interfere with your biting and chewing function and may contribute to other more complex problems.

Contact us to make an appointment with our skilled dental team today!