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Information for Patients - Root Canal (Endodontic) Treatment

Below are commonly asked questions regarding root canal (endodontic) treatment. Once you have read this if you are still unsure about any aspect of your treatment please feel free to contact us.

Why does my tooth need root canal treatment?

Root canal treatment is usually required when the pulp tissue within the root canal of the tooth has become inflamed and / or infected with bacteria. This is commonly a result of decay, repeated dental procedures and / or hairline cracks or chips on the tooth (which may not be readily detectable to the human eye).

The tooth in question may present with symptoms such as sensitivity to hot / cold, swelling and / or tenderness of the overlying gum. However, it is not unusual for there not to be any pain from the tooth in question.

What is the purpose of root canal treatment?

The aim of root canal treatment is to keep the tooth healthy / 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 denture or a bridge.

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

What is involved in root canal treatment?

Treatment is usually carried out under local anaesthetic administered into the gum adjacent to the tooth being treated. The tooth in question is then isolated with a rubber sheet which has two roles, firstly it prevents the tooth being contaminated with saliva (which contains bacteria), secondly it improves patient comfort.

An opening is then prepared on the biting surface of the tooth to allow identification of the root canals of the tooth. The root canals are 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 temporary filling.

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. Sometimes the existing crown can be retained and the opening simply filled with a white filling.

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 with your dentist.

See also Periodontal information in our Patient section

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