Once infection is within a tooth, the only cure is to remove the nerve. Clinically known as endodontics, root canal therapy is performed under local anaesthesia and usually takes several visits.
What Causes Root Canal Problems?
Inside each tooth lie nerve and blood vessels called the ‘pulp.’ If a tooth is decayed or damaged, bacteria can enter the tooth and cause infection in the pulp, killing nerves and causing intense pain. Bacteria can also spread into surrounding tissues, causing painful abscesses on your gums. Antibiotics can relieve pain but they do not remove the source of the infection.
What is Root Canal Therapy?
Once infection is within a tooth, the only cure is to remove the nerve. Clinically known as endodontics, root canal therapy is performed under local anaesthetic and usually takes several visits.
Firstly, the tooth is isolated from the rest of the mouth with a rubber sheet, to prevent bacteria in saliva re-infecting the tooth during treatment. Then a small hole is made in the tooth, leading to the root canal. The infection and decay are gently removed using a succession of very small files, increasing in diameter until the tooth is clean.
Once all infected material is removed, the root canal is filed into a tapered shape and filled with Gutta Percha – a latex derivative. Even though the dead tooth remains in place, it is no longer connected to the body’s blood supply, and in the future will become dry and brittle. Therefore the final stage of root canal treatment is to fit the tooth with a dental crown, helping to seal the whole of the tooth and protect it against future decay and damage.
Why not remove the whole tooth?
We always aim to save your natural teeth and avoid extractions. This is because the gaps left by missing teeth can cause other teeth to tilt and over-erupt, affecting your bite and causing other problems.
What are the risks?
As with all dental procedures, there are some risks and side effects associated with root canal treatment such as tenderness in the tooth and in the area of the infection. This is due to post-operative swelling or inflammation and should eventually subside. If not, the tooth may have become re-infected. If this is the case we may refer you to a specialist for re-treatment of the tooth.
Nothing to be afraid of!
Hopefully, you now have a more reassuring overview of root canal treatment. In modern dentistry, root canal treatment is a routine procedure performed by most dental practitioners. What’s more, the myth about root canal treatment being painful is not true. As it is performed under local anaesthesia, you should feel no more discomfort than when you have a standard filling.