Root Canal Treatment
The aim of root canal treatment (also called “endodontic” treatment) 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.
Most people prefer to save their tooth because it generally will function better than an artificial tooth.
Your own tooth is usually stronger and more efficient for biting and chewing. Cleaning and maintenance of natural teeth are much easier. However good an artificial tooth can be, it will never be more than just a substitute for a real tooth.
Problems with biting, chewing and oral health are associated with losing a tooth. For example, nearby 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.
Root canal treatment is successful in most cases. If you take good care of the treated tooth, it may last for many years and possibly the rest of your life. Your tooth will not be treated unless the treatment is likely to succeed. Root canal treatment may not be appropriate in some cases, and extraction may be the best, or only, option.
The healthy tooth:
The pulp is the soft tissue deep inside a tooth. The pulp contains nerves, blood vessels and connective tissue. It extends from the tooth crown to the tip of each root. The pulp is important for the normal growth, development and health of the tooth. However, a fully developed tooth can function normally without a pulp if root canal treatment has been successful.
Infection or inflammation of the pulp can be caused by:
- Repeated dental work to the tooth.
- Breakdown of a filling or crown.
- A deep cavity.
- Gum disease.
- Crack or chip in the tooth.
- Extreme wear.
Symptoms may include pain, sensitivity to heat or cold, tooth discolouration, and swelling or soreness in the gums surrounding the tooth. If the pulp cannot repair itself, it will initially become inflamed. If it is not treated, it will die and become infected. Root canal treatment is then needed to save the tooth.
To improve the chances of success, root canal treatment should start as soon as possible. All root canals in the affected tooth must be treated. The front teeth (incisors) have one or two root canals. Premolars (bicuspids) typically have one or two root canals. If the pulp of the tooth is not treated quickly, severe pain and abscesses (infections at the ends of the roots) can occur. If an abscess is left untreated, infection can damage the bone surrounding the root. If the tooth does not undergo endodontic treatment, it will have to be removed.