Root canal treatment is required when the nerve chamber (dental pulp) of a tooth has become irreversibly damaged.
The damage can be caused by tooth decay, deep fillings, trauma, tooth fracture or infection. Sometimes there is no apparent cause.
Your dentist can explain more depending on your exact tooth and symptoms.
What is a root canal treatment?
A root canal treatment involves the removal of damaged/infected nerve tissue from inside the tooth (dental pulp).
Each tooth has a different number of root canals, which have to be individually cleaned and shaped.
What happens during root canal treatment?
Rubber dam (a latex sheet) is placed around the tooth to isloate it from the mouth under local anaesthetic.
A hole is drilled into the top of the tooth to access the root canals.
The root canals are then cleaned with a sterilising solution and shaped with dental files.
The root canals are sealed to near their tip with gutta percha (a rubber filling).
The top of the tooth is then sealed with a dental filling. Root filled teeth are more brittle, and susceptible to fracture, so may require a crown to look after the tooth long-term.
Several appointments may be required to complete a root canal treatment depending on the complexicity of the tooth.
Is root canal treatment painful?
Local anaesthetic and modern painkillers are used to provide comfortable treatment.
Painful symptoms usually improve once the nerve has been removed from the tooth.
What complications can occur during root canal treatment?
The root canals of some teeth can be very fine and curved, making it difficult to clean and shape the canals completely.
Occasionally a piece of a file may break off in the root canal due to the strain on the small files - sometimes the piece may be retrieved, or can be left in place and sealed in as part of the root filling.
There may be some discomfort between appointments if the tooth has been infected (abscessed) while the tissues around the tooth heal. This may require further treatment, or antibiotics to be prescribed, if an infection is present.
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