Endodontics (Root Canal Treatment)

What is Endodontics?

Endodontics is also referred to as root canal treatment, and is designed to treat teeth that are inflamed and / or have become infected, as well as preventing the onset of further infections.

Why does a tooth need root canal treatment?

Root canal treatment is usually required when the pulp/nerve tissue within the root canal of the tooth has become inflamed and/or infected with bacteria.

This is commonly a result of:

  • Decay (caries)
  • Repeated dental procedures
  • Teeth with hairline cracks/chips
  • Fillings in the teeth which have broken or are leaking

The tooth in question may present symptoms such as sensitivity to hot/cold, swelling and/or tenderness of the overlying gum. However, it is usual for there not to be any pain from the tooth in question, but often changes at the tooth root are visible on x-rays.

What is the purpose of root canal treatment?

The aim of root canal treatment is to keep the tooth healthy or return the tooth to health, therefore allowing it to be functional. The only other viable option for a tooth requiring root canal treatment is extraction; the resulting gap may either be left alone or replaced with either an implant, bridge or a denture.

Untreated inflamed teeth which are not painful will eventually give rise to symptoms such as pain and swelling. The chances of treatment success may also reduce the longer an unhealthy tooth is left untreated.

What does root canal treatment involve?

During root canal treatment we will remove dead or damaged pulp/nerve tissue from the root of the tooth. Treatment is usually carried out under local anaesthetic administered into the gum adjacent to the tooth being treated. The tooth is then isolated with a rubber sheet which has three roles; firstly, it prevents the tooth being contaminated with saliva (which contains bacteria), secondly, it improves your comfort; thirdly, it protects your airway.

After an opening has been prepared on the biting surface of the tooth, the root canals are identified and then enlarged gradually with small metallic files. This creates space for disinfectant solutions to be inserted into the enlarged root canals to wash out the inflamed/infected pulp tissue.

Once the root canals have been adequately disinfected they are filled with a rubber like biocompatible root filling. This prevents re-infection of the disinfected root canal. The opening is then sealed with a filling, prior to being restored with an onlay/crown.

What is root canal re-treatment?

Re-treatment may be necessary, and includes the elimination of any existing root filling material and remaining infected pulp/nerve tissue, so that the canals can be re-cleaned before new filling material is placed.

What happens after root canal treatment?

A few weeks after root canal treatment has been completed, a new permanent crown is usually required to protect and restore the tooth to function. In addition, root filled back teeth are more prone to fracture because they are usually already heavily filled. Occasionally the existing crown can be retained and the opening simply filled with a filling material.

It is desirable to review the root treated tooth approximately 1 year after treatment has been completed; this is just to confirm that the treatment has been successful. This quick and simple check can be done at your routine check up appointment.