Root canal therapy (or endodontics) involves removing infected pulp from the innermost part of the tooth. This prevents the infection from spreading and can help save a tooth that may otherwise have to be extracted.
The pulp is made up of soft tissue, including nerves and blood vessels, and extends from the crown to the tips of the root. The pulp can become infected due to decay, a deep filling or trauma to the tooth. Symptoms can include pain, increased sensitivity to temperature, discolouration, a metallic taste, gum tenderness or swelling.
Root canal therapy usually requires several appointments, the number will depend on which type of tooth is being treated. Between appointments, the tooth will be covered and temporarily restored.
- An x-ray will be taken to check the root canals and see if there are any other signs of infection in the surrounding bone.
- A rubber sheet is placed around the tooth to keep it dry. The infected pulp is removed under a local anaesthetic (if necessary) and root canals are flushed with an anti-bacterial solution.
- The canals are shaped with tiny instruments and washed again to remove any debris.
- The freshly cleaned root canals are then filled with a rubber compound to seal the tooth and prevent bacteria from entering.
- The filled root canal is sealed with a permanent filling or may need a crown to help restore tooth shape and functionality.
- Although root canal therapy has a reputation for being painful, the procedure should be no more uncomfortable than having a normal filling.
If looked after properly, with regular brushing and flossing, your root canal treated tooth should stay trouble-free and provide a long lasting repair. Even though the pulp has been removed, the tooth will stay intact because the canals have been sealed to prevent re-infection. Some form of crown is recommended over the remaining tooth to help protect it as it is more brittle than before.
Regular check-ups are also recommended so any problems can be detected early.