Root canal treatment and when it is needed?
Teeth are made up of a crown (the white bit that we can see in the mouth) and the root(s). Within the root(s) of the teeth there are canals, these contain the nerve and blood supply of the teeth – known as the pulp. Different teeth have different numbers of roots and thus canals.
Root canal treatment can also be called endodontics. This type of treatment is needed when the pulp is irreversibly infected/inflamed due to decay or trauma.
Is it painful?
No. Prior to starting the treatment a local anaesthetic is given to ensure you won’t feel any pain. A root canal should feel just like a filling; however, the process does take longer.
What is involved?
Root canal treatment requires skill and so is a time-consuming procedure – often the treatment may take at least two longer appointments with your dentist.
First the dentist will have to find and gain access to the canals in the teeth, these canals are then cleaned and shaped. This is done to remove the inflamed/infected pulp (which is causing the pain) and to rid the canals of bacteria. At this point the tooth will usually be filled temporarily.
The dentist will then get you back in and provided the symptoms have resolved, the canals are then filled with a natural rubber material. Now that the roots are filled the crown of the tooth will also need a final restoration. This restoration is very important as it provides a seal preventing external bacteria from re-entering.
Why is WDP good at RCT?
At WDP our practice is equipped with surgical microscopes as well as state of the art equipment and facilities allowing the provision of high quality dental treatment, this is something all staff are passionate about.
As mentioned earlier, root canal therapy is a skill and the use of specialised equipment can allow for successful treatment in even the most complex of cases.
What is the long-term prognosis?
Root canal treatment is usually very successful – studies show root canal treatment is successful 85-97% of the time allowing you to keep your tooth for many years. However, in rarer cases where the infection comes back the treatment can be repeated. In cases where treatment is repeated, studies show it is successful about 70-80% of the time.
What happens to my tooth afterwards?
Root canal treatment can sometimes lead to the tooth becoming darker in the future. If there is any discolouration, there are several treatments available to rectify this.
Although root canal treatment allows you to keep a tooth which would otherwise cause lots of pain and infection, it renders it effectively dead. There will no longer be any blood/nerve supply to that tooth. This as well as the process of shaping and cleaning the canals leads to the tooth becoming brittle and more likely to fracture during normal function than a live tooth.
The dentist will, for this reason, often advise the tooth be crowned after root canal treatment. Crowns not only provide strength and support to the tooth, the improve the seal preventing reinfection.
What if I chose not to have root canal treatment and what other options do I have?
If the pulp is irreversibly inflamed or infected, there is a risk the tooth could flare up at any time, any number of times– this can be very painful, furthermore it is not recommended to leave an infection in the mouth. The only solution is to remove the source of infection – the pulp. The only other way to do this, other than a root canal, is to have the problematic tooth.
My dentist told me my tooth is dead, but not suitable for root canal treatment, why is this?
As mentioned above, after root canal treatment it is important the crown is sealed to prevent the canals from reinfection. If a tooth is so badly broken down that it is no longer restorable, a dental extraction may be the only viable treatment option.
How do I look after my tooth after root canal treatment?
Root-treated teeth should be looked after just as you would any other teeth. The teeth should be cleaned twice daily, once before bed and at one other time in the day (ideally in the morning). Remember to keep sugar in the diet to a minimum and see your dentist for regular check-ups.
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