Root canal treatment (endodontics) is required when the nerve or blood supply to the tooth (called the pulp) is infected or inflamed. The cause of this could be through dental decay or trauma. The infected tooth often becomes dark in colour and can cause swelling in the mouth. It is necessary to remove the infected and inflamed pulp tissue from inside the roots to prevent further spread into the surrounding tissues. The roots are then filled and sealed, so the tooth remains intact and continues to function normally in the jaw bone following treatment.
Dr Satya Patel is experienced in the field of endodontics and completed a Diploma in Restorative dentistry with a special interest in Endodontics in 2011. He has been a member of the British Endodontic Society (BES) since 2008. Satya carries out treatment with the aid of magnifying loupes and an operating microscope.
- Why is root canal treatment needed? The pulp in the tooth may become infected and this can spread through the root canal system of the tooth. The damage is usually due to decay, very deep fillings, crack in the tooth, trauma or advanced gum disease. The symptoms of an abscess can range from a dull ache to severe pain. The tooth is often tender to bite on. If root canal treatment is not carried out, the infection can spread and tooth may require extraction.
- Is it painful? No. Local anaesthetic is used to numb the area, no different to having an ordinary filling. Sometimes extra anaesthetic is required if the nerve is particularly inflamed. After root canal treatment is completed, it is not unusual to have some tenderness for a few days, but this should gradually reduce over time.
- What does it involve? The aim of root treatment is to remove all infection from the root canal. The tooth is isolated, by attaching a clip and rubber sheet (rubber dam). This prevents water, debris and filling material from falling to the back of your mouth. It also reduces the chances of bacteria from the mouth infecting the root canal while it is being cleaned. The root is cleaned thoroughly and filled to prevent infection. It is a highly skilled and time-consuming procedure. Most treatments are completed in one visit and usually take around one hour. In difficult cases extra visits may be required.
- What if I don’t have treatment? The alternative is to have the tooth extracted. Once the pulp is damaged, it is unable to heal and it is not recommended to leave an infected tooth in the mouth.
- What if the infection comes back? Root canal treatment has very high success rates. If the infection returns however, the root canal treatment can be repeated. The main cause of re-infection is complex root anatomy, lost seal due to lost filling or defective old root filling. The success rates of repeat root canal treatments, is reduced than when they are completed first time round.
- Will the tooth be safe after treatment? Yes however the tooth is much weaker. It is advised to avoid putting too much force on the tooth until a final restoration is placed. A crown is recommended to provide extra strength and support to the tooth.