Inside a tooth is a fine channel called the root canal which contains the dental pulp. This pulp consists of nerves and blood vessels. If the pulp becomes diseased or dies, a toothache or an abscess may occur. In the past, these problem teeth were extracted, but now root canal treatment can save the tooth.
Not all types of teeth pain are indications for a root canal. But signs of infection severe enough to require a root canal include:
- Serious tooth pain when eating or when you put pressure on the area
- Tooth pain, throbbing and/or sensitivity to hot or cold that lingers after the hot or cold stimuli have been removed
- A small, pimple-like bump on the gums near the area of teeth pain
- Darkening of the tooth
- Tenderness or swelling in the gums near the area of teeth pain
- Facial swelling
Why does pulp become diseased?
There can be a number of reasons for the pulp becoming diseased:
- Deep cavities
- Trauma (even old trauma's)
- Tooth fracture
- Extreme wear
- Crack or chip in a tooth
- Sometimes there is no apparent cause
Symptoms may include pain, sensitivity to hot or cold, tooth discolouration, and swelling or soreness in the gums surrounding the tooth.
Why have root canal treatment?
The aim of root canal treatment (also called endodontic treatment or root canal therapy) is to save a tooth that has been badly damaged due to decay, disease or injury. Many millions of teeth each year are saved from extraction by having root canal treatment.
Your own teeth are better than artificial teeth because:
- They are more efficient for biting and chewing
- They are stronger
It is better to have a tooth in place because teeth can move out of their normal position and tilt into the space left by a missing tooth. This can make chewing and biting difficult, and can lead to further decay and gum disease around the tilted teeth.
What happens during root canal treatment?
There are three basic steps:
- A hole is drilled through the top of the tooth to access the root canal.
- The infected pulp is removed and the space is disinfected. The canal is then shaped with fine dental files.
- The canals are then washed with a sterilising solution and sealed with a final filling.
To improve the chances of success, root canal treatment should start as soon as possible after a problem is identified. This treatment can take several visits to complete depending on how . In some cases if there is an infection present, antibiotics are sometimes prescribed.
Can my dentist perform a root canal?
A qualified dentist can carry out this treatment, as can an endodontic specialist.